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WHY I KILLED GANDHI-Nathuram Godse’s Final Address to the Court





Gandhiji’s Assassin Nathuram Godse’s Final Address to the Court  


Nathuram Godse was arrested immediately after he assassinated Gandhiji, based on a  F.I. R. filed by Nandlal Mehta at the Tughlak Road Police station at Delhi. The trial, which was held in camera, began on 27th May 1948 and concluded on 10th February 1949. He was sentenced to death..


An appeal to the Punjab High Court, then in session at Simla, did not find favour and the sentence was upheld. The statement that you are about to read is the last made by Godse before the Court on the 5th of May 1949. 


Such was the power and eloquence of this statement that one of the judges, G. D. Khosla, later wrote, “I have, however, no doubt that had the audience of that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse’s appeal, they would have brought a verdict of ‘not Guilty’ by an overwhelming majority”



Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. I had, therefore, been intensely proud of Hinduism as a whole. As I grew up I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any isms, political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I openly joined RSS wing of anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus were of equal status as to rights, social and religious and should be considered high or low on merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession. 

I used publicly to take part in organized anti-caste dinners in which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Chamars and Bhangis participated. We broke the caste rules and dined in the company of each other. I have read the speeches and writings of Ravana, Chanakiya, Dadabhai Naoroji, Vivekanand, Gokhale, Tilak, along with the books of ancient and modern history of India and some prominent countries like England, France, America and Russia. Moreover I studied the tenets of Socialism and Marxism. But above all I studied very closely whatever Veer Savarkar and Gandhiji had written and spoken, as to my mind these two ideologies have contributed more to the moulding of the thought and action of the Indian people during the last thirty years or so, than any other single factor has done. 

All this reading and thinking led me to believe it was my first duty to serve Hindudom and Hindus both as a patriot and as a world citizen. To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (300 million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and the well-being of all India, one fifth of human race. This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the Hindu Sanghtanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the national independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well. 

Since the year 1920, that is, after the demise of Lokamanya Tilak, Gandhiji’s influence in the Congress first increased and then became supreme. His activities for public awakening were phenomenal in their intensity and were reinforced by the slogan of truth and non-violence which he paraded ostentatiously before the country. No sensible or enlightened person could object to those slogans. In fact there is nothing new or original in them. They are implicit in every constitutional public movement. But it is nothing but a mere dream if you imagine that the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life from day to day. 

In fact, honour, duty and love of one’s own kith and kin and country might often compel us to disregard non-violence and to use force. I could never conceive that an armed resistance to an aggression is unjust. I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and, if possible, to overpower such an enemy by use of force. [In the Ramayana] Rama killed Ravana in a tumultuous fight and relieved Sita.. [In the Mahabharata], Krishna killed Kansa to end his wickedness; and Arjuna had to fight and slay quite a number of his friends and relations including the revered Bhishma because the latter was on the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action. 

In more recent history, it was the heroic fight put up by Chhatrapati Shivaji that first checked and eventually destroyed the Muslim tyranny in India. It was absolutely essentially for Shivaji to overpower and kill an aggressive Afzal Khan, failing which he would have lost his own life. In condemning history’s towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh as misguided patriots, Gandhiji has merely exposed his self-conceit. He was, paradoxical as it may appear, a violent pacifist who brought untold calamities on the country in the name of truth and non-violence, while Rana Pratap, Shivaji and the Guru will remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen for ever for the freedom they brought to them. 

The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately. Gandhi had done very good in South Africa to uphold the rights and well-being of the Indian community there. But when he finally returned to India he developed a subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on his own way. 

Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house. Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the Judge of everyone and every thing; he was the master brain guiding the civil disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin and when to withdraw it. The movement might succeed or fail, it might bring untold disaster and political reverses but that could make no difference to the Mahatma’s infallibility. ‘A Satyagrahi can never fail’ was his formula for declaring his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is. Thus, the Mahatma became the judge and jury in his own cause. These childish insanities and obstinacies, coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible. 

Many people thought that his politics were irrational but they had either to withdraw from the Congress or place their intelligence at his feet to do with as he liked. In a position of such absolute irresponsibility Gandhi was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure, disaster after disaster. Gandhi’s pro-Muslim policy is blatantly in his perverse attitude on the question of the national language of India. It is quite obvious that Hindi has the most prior claim to be accepted as the premier language. In the beginning of his career in India, Gandhi gave a great impetus to Hindi but as he found that the Muslims did not like it, he became a champion of what is called Hindustani.. Everybody in India knows that there is no language called Hindustani; it has no grammar; it has no vocabulary. It is a mere dialect, it is spoken, but not written. It is a bastard tongue and cross-breed between Hindi and Urdu, and not even the Mahatma’s sophistry could make it popular. But in his desire to please the Muslims he insisted that Hindustani alone should be the national language of India. His blind followers, of course, supported him and the so-called hybrid language began to be used. The charm and purity of the Hindi language was to be prostituted to please the Muslims. All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus. 

From August 1946 onwards the private armies of the Muslim League began a massacre of the Hindus. The then Viceroy, Lord Wavell, though distressed at what was happening, would not use his powers under the Government of India Act of 1935 to prevent the rape, murder and arson. The Hindu blood began to flow from Bengal to Karachi with some retaliation by the Hindus. The Interim Government formed in September was sabotaged by its Muslim League members right from its inception, but the more they became disloyal and treasonable to the government of which they were a part, the greater was Gandhi’s infatuation for them. Lord Wavell had to resign as he could not bring about a settlement and he was succeeded by Lord Mountbatten. King Log was followed by King Stork. The Congress which had boasted of its nationalism and socialism secretly accepted Pakistan literally at the point of the bayonet and abjectly surrendered to Jinnah. India was vivisected and one-third of the Indian territory became foreign land to us from August 15, 1947.

Lord Mountbatten came to be described in Congress circles as the greatest Viceroy and Governor-General this country ever had. The official date for handing over power was fixed for June 30, 1948, but Mountbatten with his ruthless surgery gave us a gift of vivisected India ten months in advance. This is what Gandhi had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship and this is what Congress party calls ‘freedom’ and ‘peaceful transfer of power’. The Hindu-Muslim unity bubble was finally burst and a theocratic state was established with the consent of Nehru and his crowd and they have called ‘freedom won by them with sacrifice’ – whose sacrifice? When top leaders of Congress, with the consent of Gandhi, divided and tore the country – which we consider a deity of worship – my mind was filled with direful anger.

One of the conditions imposed by Gandhi for his breaking of the fast unto death related to the mosques in Delhi occupied by the Hindu refugees. But when Hindus in Pakistan were subjected to violent attacks he did not so much as utter a single word to protest and censure the Pakistan Government or the Muslims concerned. Gandhi was shrewd enough to know that while undertaking a fast unto death, had he imposed for its break some condition on the Muslims in Pakistan, there would have been found hardly any Muslims who could have shown some grief if the fast had ended in his death. It was for this reason that he purposely avoided imposing any condition on the Muslims. He was fully aware of from the experience that Jinnah was not at all perturbed or influenced by his fast and the Muslim League hardly attached any value to the inner voice of Gandhi. Gandhi is being referred to as the Father of the Nation. 

But if that is so, he had failed his paternal duty inasmuch as he has acted very treacherously to the nation by his consenting to the partitioning of it. I stoutly maintain that Gandhi has failed in his duty. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan. His innervoice, his spiritual power and his doctrine of non-violence of which so much is made of, all crumbled before Jinnah’s iron will and proved to be powerless. Briefly speaking, I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason which I consider to be necessary for sound nation-building. 

After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter, but I did not speak about it to anyone whatsoever. I took courage in both my hands and I did fire the shots at Gandhiji on 30th January 1948, on the prayer-grounds of Birla House. I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots. I bear no ill will towards anyone individually but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi. 

I have to say with great regret that Prime Minister Nehru quite forgets that his preachings and deeds are at times at variances with each other when he talks about India as a secular state in season and out of season, because it is significant to note that Nehru has played a leading role in the establishment of the theocratic state of Pakistan, and his job was made easier by Gandhi’s persistent policy of appeasement towards the Muslims. I now stand before the court to accept the full share of my responsibility for what I have done and the judge would, of course, pass against me such orders of sentence as may be considered proper. But I would like to add that I do not desire any mercy to be shown to me, nor do I wish that anyone else should beg for mercy on my behalf. My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof some day in future.










Nathuram Vinayak Godse (19 May 1910 – 15 November 1949) was a right wing advocate of Hindu nationalism who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, shooting him in the chest three times at point blank range in New Delhi on 30 January 1948.Godse, an ex Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member from Pune, Maharashtra, thought Gandhi favored the political demands of India’s Muslims during the partition of India. He plotted the assassination with Narayan Apte and six others. After a trial that lasted over a year, Godse was sentenced to death on 8 November 1949. Although pleas for commutation were made by Gandhi’s two sons, Manilal Gandhi and Ramdas Gandhi, they were turned down by India’s prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, deputy prime minister Vallabhbhai Patel and the Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, and Godse was hanged in the Ambala jail on 15 November 1949.




[Image courtesy: By Indian Government work –, Public Domain,

By Originally from [1] First uploaded to en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Public Domain,]


I am what I was…

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Famous Speeches of Famous American Presidents





Famous Speeches of Famous American Presidents



George Washington


First Inaugural Address

George Washington
First Inaugural Address In The City Of New York
Thursday, April 30, 1789

The Nation’s first chief executive took his oath of office in April in New York City on the balcony of the Senate Chamber at Federal Hall on Wall Street. General Washington had been unanimously elected President by the first electoral college, and John Adams was elected Vice President because he received the second greatest number of votes. Under the rules, each elector cast two votes. The Chancellor of New York and fellow Freemason, Robert R. Livingston administered the oath of office. The Bible on which the oath was sworn belonged to New York’s St. John’s Masonic Lodge. The new President gave his inaugural address before a joint session of the two Houses of Congress assembled inside the Senate Chamber.


Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

Among the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years–a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.


Abraham Lincoln

First Inaugural Address

Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address
Monday, March 4, 1861

The national upheaval of secession was a grim reality at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as the President of the Confederacy two weeks earlier. The former Illinois Congressman had arrived in Washington by a secret route to avoid danger, and his movements were guarded by General Winfield Scott’s soldiers. Ignoring advice to the contrary, the President-elect rode with President Buchanan in an open carriage to the Capitol, where he took the oath of office on the East Portico. Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the executive oath for the seventh time. The Capitol itself was sheathed in scaffolding because the copper and wood “Bulfinch” dome was being replaced with a cast iron dome designed by Thomas U. Walter.


Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President “before he enters on the execution of this office.”

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that–

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause–as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution–to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause “shall be delivered up” their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath? There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that “the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States”?

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it–break it, so to speak–but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union.”

But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections. That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the Constitution has been denied? I think not. Happily, the human mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view justify revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.

Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution–which amendment, however, I have not seen–has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose, but the Executive as such has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.

By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.



Second Inaugural Address

Abraham Lincoln
Second Inaugural Address
Saturday, March 4, 1865

Weeks of wet weather preceding Lincoln’s second inauguration had caused Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water. Thousands of spectators stood in thick mud at the Capitol grounds to hear the President. As he stood on the East Portico to take the executive oath, the completed Capitol dome over the President’s head was a physical reminder of the resolve of his Administration throughout the years of civil war. Chief Justice Salmon Chase administered the oath of office. In little more than a month, the President would be assassinated.



At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war–seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.



Gettysburg Address


Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Lincoln was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his now immortal Gettysburg Address. On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. The copy for Edward Everett, the orator who spoke at Gettysburg for two hours prior to Lincoln, is at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield; the Bancroft copy, requested by historian George Bancroft, is at Cornell University in New York; the Bliss copy was made for Colonel Alexander Bliss, Bancroft’s stepson, and is now in the Lincoln Room of the White House.

Drawn from the Library’s collections, the presentation that follows gathers the key documents linked to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.



The Gettysburg Address


Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



The Gettysburg Address (Nicolay Draft)

This version of the Gettysburg address is thought to be the first draft that Lincoln took with him to Gettysburg. It is possibly the version he read from. However, some of the words do not match accounts of the time. President Lincoln gave this copy to one of his two private secrataries, John Nicolay.

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow, this ground — The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



The Gettysburg Address (Hay Draft)

This version of the Gettysburg address is the second draft, probably written by President Lincoln shortly after he returned to Washington. Lincoln gave this copy to one of his two private secrataries, John Hay.

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



Jimmy Carter



Jimmy Carter
Inaugural Address
Thursday, January 20, 1977

The Democrats reclaimed the White House in the 1976 election. The Governor from Georgia defeated Gerald Ford, who had become President on August 9, 1974, upon the resignation of President Nixon. The oath of office was taken on the Bible used in the first inauguration by George | Washington; it was administered by Chief Justice Warren Burger on the East Front of the Capitol. The new President and his family surprised the spectators by walking from the Capitol to the White House after the ceremony.



Inaugural Address


For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.

In this outward and physical ceremony we attest once again to the inner and spiritual strength of our Nation. As my high school teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, used to say: “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.”

Here before me is the Bible used in the inauguration of our first President, in 1789, and I have just taken the oath of office on the Bible my mother gave me a few years ago, opened to a timeless admonition from the ancient prophet Micah:

“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6: 8)

This inauguration ceremony marks a new beginning, a new dedication within our Government, and a new spirit among us all. A President may sense and proclaim that new spirit, but only a people can provide it.

Two centuries ago our Nation’s birth was a milestone in the long quest for freedom, but the bold and brilliant dream which excited the founders of this Nation still awaits its consummation. I have no new dream to set forth today, but rather urge a fresh faith in the old dream.

Ours was the first society openly to define itself in terms of both spirituality and of human liberty. It is that unique self-definition which has given us an exceptional appeal, but it also imposes on us a special obligation, to take on those moral duties which, when assumed, seem invariably to be in our own best interests.

You have given me a great responsibility–to stay close to you, to be worthy of you, and to exemplify what you are. Let us create together a new national spirit of unity and trust. Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes. Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right.

The American dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our country–and in one another. I believe America can be better. We can be even stronger than before.

Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own government we have no future. We recall in special times when we have stood briefly, but magnificently, united. In those times no prize was beyond our grasp.

But we cannot dwell upon remembered glory. We cannot afford to drift. We reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity or an inferior quality of life for any person. Our Government must at the same time be both competent and compassionate.

We have already found a high degree of personal liberty, and we are now struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our natural beauty preserved; the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced.

We have learned that “more” is not necessarily “better,” that even our great Nation has its recognized limits, and that we can neither answer all questions nor solve all problems. We cannot afford to do everything, nor can we afford to lack boldness as we meet the future. So, together, in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best.

Our Nation can be strong abroad only if it is strong at home. And we know that the best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.

To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others. We will not behave in foreign places so as to violate our rules and standards here at home, for we know that the trust which our Nation earns is essential to our strength.

The world itself is now dominated by a new spirit. Peoples more numerous and more politically aware are craving and now demanding their place in the sun–not just for the benefit of their own physical condition, but for basic human rights.

The passion for freedom is on the rise. Tapping this new spirit, there can be no nobler nor more ambitious task for America to undertake on this day of a new beginning than to help shape a just and peaceful world that is truly humane.

We are a strong nation, and we will maintain strength so sufficient that it need not be proven in combat–a quiet strength based not merely on the size of an arsenal, but on the nobility of ideas.

We will be ever vigilant and never vulnerable, and we will fight our wars against poverty, ignorance, and injustice–for those are the enemies against which our forces can be honorably marshaled.

We are a purely idealistic Nation, but let no one confuse our idealism with weakness.

Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere. Our moral sense dictates a clearcut preference for these societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights. We do not seek to intimidate, but it is clear that a world which others can dominate with impunity would be inhospitable to decency and a threat to the well-being of all people.

The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race designed to ensure continuing equivalent strength among potential adversaries. We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s own domestic safety. And we will move this year a step toward ultimate goal–the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this Earth. We urge all other people to join us, for success can mean life instead of death.

Within us, the people of the United States, there is evident a serious and purposeful rekindling of confidence. And I join in the hope that when my time as your President has ended, people might say this about our Nation:

– that we had remembered the words of Micah and renewed our search for humility, mercy, and justice; – that we had torn down the barriers that separated those of different race and region and religion, and where there had been mistrust, built unity, with a respect for diversity;

– that we had found productive work for those able to perform it;

– that we had strengthened the American family, which is the basis of our society;

– that we had ensured respect for the law, and equal treatment under the law, for the weak and the powerful, for the rich and the poor;

– and that we had enabled our people to be proud of their own Government once again.

I would hope that the nations of the world might say that we had built a lasting peace, built not on weapons of war but on international policies which reflect our own most precious values.

These are not just my goals, and they will not be my accomplishments, but the affirmation of our Nation’s continuing moral strength and our belief in an undiminished, ever-expanding American dream.




Thomas Jefferson

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America


In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.



First Inaugural Speech


Thomas Jefferson
First Inaugural Address In Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, March 4, 1801

Chief Justice John Marshall administered the first executive oath of office ever taken in the new federal city in the new Senate Chamber (now the Old Supreme Court Chamber) of the partially built Capitol building. The outcome of the election of 1800 had been in doubt until late February because Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, the two leading candidates, each had received 73 electoral votes. Consequently, the House of Representatives met in a special session to resolve the impasse, pursuant to the terms spelled out in the Constitution. After 30 hours of debate and balloting, Mr. Jefferson emerged as the President and Mr. Burr the Vice President. President John Adams, who had run unsuccessfully for a second term, left Washington on the day of the inauguration without attending the ceremony.



Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye–when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue, and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should I despair did not the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world’s best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter–with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens–a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people–a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose preeminent services had entitled him to the first place in his country’s love and destined for him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past, and my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.

Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make. And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.


Second Inaugural Speech

Thomas Jefferson
Second Inaugural Address, Washington D.C.
Monday, March 4, 1805

The second inauguration of Mr. Jefferson followed an election under which the offices of President and Vice President were to be separately sought, pursuant to the newly adopted 12th Amendment to the Constitution. George Clinton of New York was elected Vice President. Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol.

Proceeding, fellow-citizens, to that qualification which the Constitution requires before my entrance on the charge again conferred on me, it is my duty to express the deep sense I entertain of this new proof of confidence from my fellow-citizens at large, and the zeal with which it inspires me so to conduct myself as may best satisfy their just expectations.

On taking this station on a former occasion I declared the principles on which I believed it my duty to administer the affairs of our Commonwealth. MY conscience tells me I have on every occasion acted up to that declaration according to its obvious import and to the understanding of every candid mind.

In the transaction of your foreign affairs we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations, and especially of those with which we have the most important relations. We have done them justice on all occasions, favored where favor was lawful, and cherished mutual interests and intercourse on fair and equal terms. We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with individuals our interests soundly calculated will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties, and history bears witness to the fact that a just nation is trusted on its word when recourse is had to armaments and wars to bridle others.

At home, fellow-citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. These, covering our land with officers and opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation which once entered is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property and produce. If among these taxes some minor ones fell which had not been inconvenient, it was because their amount would not have paid the officers who collected them, and because, if they had any merit, the State authorities might adopt them instead of others less approved.

The remaining revenue on the consumption of foreign articles is paid chiefly by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts, being collected on our seaboard and frontiers only, and incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it may be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask, What farmer, what mechanic, what laborer ever sees a taxgatherer of the United States? These contributions enable us to support the current expenses of the Government, to fulfill contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, and to apply such a surplus to our public debts as places at a short day their final redemption, and that redemption once effected the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition of it among the States and a corresponding amendment of the Constitution, be applied in time of peace to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects within each State. In time of war, if injustice by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will be by increased population and consumption, and aided by other resources reserved for that crisis, it may meet within the year all the expenses of the year without encroaching on the rights of future generations by burthening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a suspension of useful works, and a return to a state of peace, a return to the progress of improvement.

I have said, fellow-citizens, that the income reserved had enabled us to extend our limits, but that extension may possibly pay for itself before we are called on, and in the meantime may keep down the accruing interest; in all events, it will replace the advances we shall have made. I know that the acquisition of Louisiana had been disapproved by some from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory would endanger its union. But who can limit the extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively? The larger our association the less will it be shaken by local passions; and in any view is it not better that the opposite bank of the Mississippi should be settled by our own brethren and children than by strangers of another family? With which should we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse?

In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of the church or state authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.

The aboriginal inhabitants of these countries I have regarded with the commiseration their history inspires. Endowed with the faculties and the rights of men, breathing an ardent love of liberty and independence, and occupying a country which left them no desire but to be undisturbed, the stream of overflowing population from other regions directed itself on these shores; without power to divert or habits to contend against it, they have been overwhelmed by the current or driven before it; now reduced within limits too narrow for the hunter’s state, humanity enjoins us to teach them agriculture and the domestic arts; to encourage them to that industry which alone can enable them to maintain their place in existence and to prepare them in time for that state of society which to bodily comforts adds the improvement of the mind and morals. We have therefore liberally furnished them with the implements of husbandry and household use; we have placed among them instructors in the arts of first necessity, and they are covered with the aegis of the law against aggressors from among ourselves.

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason, follow its dictates, and change their pursuits with the change of circumstances have powerful obstacles to encounter; they are combated by the habits of their bodies, prejudices of their minds, ignorance, pride, and the influence of interested and crafty individuals among them who feel themselves something in the present order of things and fear to become nothing in any other. These persons inculcate a sanctimonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be done through all time; that reason is a false guide, and to advance under its counsel in their physical, moral, or political condition is perilous innovation; that their duty is to remain as their Creator made them, ignorance being safety and knowledge full of danger; in short, my friends, among them also is seen the action and counteraction of good sense and of bigotry; they too have their antiphilosophists who find an interest in keeping things in their present state, who dread reformation, and exert all their faculties to maintain the ascendancy of habit over the duty of improving our reason and obeying its mandates.

In giving these outlines I do not mean, fellow-citizens, to arrogate to myself the merit of the measures. That is due, in the first place, to the reflecting character of our citizens at large, who, by the weight of public opinion, influence and strengthen the public measures. It is due to the sound discretion with which they select from among themselves those to whom they confide the legislative duties. It is due to the zeal and wisdom of the characters thus selected, who lay the foundations of public happiness in wholesome laws, the execution of which alone remains for others, and it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries, whose patriotism has associated them with me in the executive functions.

During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety. They might, indeed, have been corrected by the wholesome punishments reserved to and provided by the laws of the several States against falsehood and defamation, but public duties more urgent press on the time of public servants, and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public indignation.

Nor was it uninteresting to the world that an experiment should be fairly and fully made, whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation and protection of truth–whether a government conducting itself in the true spirit of its constitution, with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling the whole world should witness, can be written down by falsehood and defamation. The experiment has been tried; you have witnessed the scene; our fellow-citizens looked on, cool and collected; they saw the latent source from which these outrages proceeded; they gathered around their public functionaries, and when the Constitution called them to the decision by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those who had served them and consolatory to the friend of man who believes that he may be trusted with the control of his own affairs.

No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the States against false and defamatory publications should not be enforced; he who has time renders a service to public morals and public tranquillity in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law; but the experiment is noted to prove that, since truth and reason have maintained their ground against false opinions in league with false facts, the press, confined to truth, needs no other legal restraint; the public judgment will correct false reasoning and opinions on a full hearing of all parties; and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty of the press and its demoralizing licentiousness. If there be still improprieties which this rule would not restrain, its supplement must be sought in the censorship of public opinion.

Contemplating the union of sentiment now manifested so generally as auguring harmony and happiness to our future course, I offer to our country sincere congratulations. With those, too, not yet rallied to the same point the disposition to do so is gaining strength; facts are piercing through the veil drawn over them, and our doubting brethren will at length see that the mass of their fellow-citizens with whom they can not yet resolve to act as to principles and measures, think as they think and desire what they desire; that our wish as well as theirs is that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good, that peace be cultivated, civil and religious liberty unassailed, law and order preserved, equality of rights maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his father’s. When satisfied of these views it is not in human nature that they should not approve and support them. In the meantime let us cherish them with patient affection, let us do them justice, and more than justice, in all competitions of interest; and we need not doubt that truth, reason, and their own interests will at length prevail, will gather them into the fold of their country, and will complete that entire union of opinion which gives to a nation the blessing of harmony and the benefit of all its strength.

I shall now enter on the duties to which my fellow-citizens have again called me, and shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved. I fear not that any motives of interest may lead me astray; I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me knowingly from the path of justice, but the weaknesses of human nature and the limits of my own understanding will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests. I shall need, therefore, all the indulgence which I have heretofore experienced from my constituents; the want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years. I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.



John F. Kennedy


John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address
Friday, January 20, 1961

Heavy snow fell the night before the inauguration, but thoughts about cancelling the plans were overruled. The election of 1960 had been close, and the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts was eager to gather support for his agenda. He attended Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown that morning before joining President Eisenhower to travel to the Capitol. The Congress had extended the East Front, and the inaugural platform spanned the new addition. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Earl Warren. Robert Frost read one of his poems at the ceremony.

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning–signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn I before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears l prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge–and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom–and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge–to convert our good words into good deeds–in a new alliance for progress–to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support–to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective–to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak–and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens … and to let the oppressed go free.”

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are–but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.



Richard Milhous Nixon

First Inaugural Address



Richard Milhous Nixon
Monday, January 20, 1969

An almost-winner of the 1960 election, and a close winner of the 1968 election, the former Vice President and California Senator and Congressman had defeated the Democratic Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, and the American Independent Party candidate, George Wallace. Chief Justice Earl Warren administered the oath of office for the fifth time. The President addressed the large crowd from a pavilion on the East Front of the Capitol. The address was televised by satellite around the world.


Senator Dirksen, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, President Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, my fellow Americans–and my fellow citizens of the world community:

I ask you to share with me today the majesty of this moment. In the orderly transfer of power, we celebrate the unity that keeps us free.

Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique. But some stand out as moments of beginning, in which courses are set that shape decades or centuries.

This can be such a moment.

Forces now are converging that make possible, for the first time, the hope that many of man’s deepest aspirations can at last be realized. The spiraling pace of change allows us to contemplate, within our own lifetime, advances that once would have taken centuries.

In throwing wide the horizons of space, we have discovered new horizons on earth.

For the first time, because the people of the world want peace, and the leaders of the world are afraid of war, the times are on the side of peace.

Eight years from now America will celebrate its 200th anniversary as a nation. Within the lifetime of most people now living, mankind will celebrate that great new year which comes only once in a thousand years–the beginning of the third millennium.

What kind of nation we will be, what kind of world we will live in, whether we shape the future in the image of our hopes, is ours to determine by our actions and our choices.

The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America–the chance to help lead the world at last out of the valley of turmoil, and onto that high ground of peace that man has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization.

If we succeed, generations to come will say of us now living that we mastered our moment, that we helped make the world safe for mankind.

This is our summons to greatness.

I believe the American people are ready to answer this call.

The second third of this century has been a time of proud achievement. We have made enormous strides in science and industry and agriculture. We have shared our wealth more broadly than ever. We have learned at last to manage a modern economy to assure its continued growth.

We have given freedom new reach, and we have begun to make its promise real for black as well as for white.

We see the hope of tomorrow in the youth of today. I know America’s youth. I believe in them. We can be proud that they are better educated, more committed, more passionately driven by conscience than any generation in our history.

No people has ever been so close to the achievement of a just and abundant society, or so possessed of the will to achieve it. Because our strengths are so great, we can afford to appraise our weaknesses with candor and to approach them with hope.

Standing in this same place a third of a century ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a Nation ravaged by depression and gripped in fear. He could say in surveying the Nation’s troubles: “They concern, thank God, only material things.”

Our crisis today is the reverse.

We have found ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous discord on earth.

We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity. We see around us empty lives, wanting fulfillment. We see tasks that need doing, waiting for hands to do them.

To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit.

To find that answer, we need only look within ourselves.

When we listen to “the better angels of our nature,” we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things–such as goodness, decency, love, kindness.

Greatness comes in simple trappings.

The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount what divides us, and cement what unites us.

To lower our voices would be a simple thing.

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another–until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.

For its part, government will listen. We will strive to listen in new ways–to the voices of quiet anguish, the voices that speak without words, the voices of the heart–to the injured voices, the anxious voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard.

Those who have been left out, we will try to bring in.

Those left behind, we will help to catch up.

For all of our people, we will set as our goal the decent order that makes progress possible and our lives secure.

As we reach toward our hopes, our task is to build on what has gone before–not turning away from the old, but turning toward the new.

In this past third of a century, government has passed more laws, spent more money, initiated more programs, than in all our previous history.

In pursuing our goals of full employment, better housing, excellence in education; in rebuilding our cities and improving our rural areas; in protecting our environment and enhancing the quality of life–in all these and more, we will and must press urgently forward.

We shall plan now for the day when our wealth can be transferred from the destruction of war abroad to the urgent needs of our people at home.

The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep.

But we are approaching the limits of what government alone can do.

Our greatest need now is to reach beyond government, and to enlist the legions of the concerned and the committed.

What has to be done, has to be done by government and people together or it will not be done at all. The lesson of past agony is that without the people we can do nothing; with the people we can do everything.

To match the magnitude of our tasks, we need the energies of our people–enlisted not only in grand enterprises, but more importantly in those small, splendid efforts that make headlines in the neighborhood newspaper instead of the national journal.

With these, we can build a great cathedral of the spirit–each of us raising it one stone at a time, as he reaches out to his neighbor, helping, caring, doing.

I do not offer a life of uninspiring ease. I do not call for a life of grim sacrifice. I ask you to join in a high adventure–one as rich as humanity itself, and as exciting as the times we live in.

The essence of freedom is that each of us shares in the shaping of his own destiny.

Until he has been part of a cause larger than himself, no man is truly whole.

The way to fulfillment is in the use of our talents; we achieve nobility in the spirit that inspires that use.

As we measure what can be done, we shall promise only what we know we can produce, but as we chart our goals we shall be lifted by our dreams.

No man can be fully free while his neighbor is not. To go forward at all is to go forward together.

This means black and white together, as one nation, not two. The laws have caught up with our conscience. What remains is to give life to what is in the law: to ensure at last that as all are born equal in dignity before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.

As we learn to go forward together at home, let us also seek to go forward together with all mankind.

Let us take as our goal: where peace is unknown, make it welcome; where peace is fragile, make it strong; where peace is temporary, make it permanent.

After a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation.

Let all nations know that during this administration our lines of communication will be open.

We seek an open world–open to ideas, open to the exchange of goods and people–a world in which no people, great or small, will live in angry isolation.

We cannot expect to make everyone our friend, but we can try to make no one our enemy.

Those who would be our adversaries, we invite to a peaceful competition–not in conquering territory or extending dominion, but in enriching the life of man.

As we explore the reaches of space, let us go to the new worlds together–not as new worlds to be conquered, but as a new adventure to be shared.

With those who are willing to join, let us cooperate to reduce the burden of arms, to strengthen the structure of peace, to lift up the poor and the hungry.

But to all those who would be tempted by weakness, let us leave no doubt that we will be as strong as we need to be for as long as we need to be.

Over the past twenty years, since I first came to this Capital as a freshman Congressman, I have visited most of the nations of the world.

I have come to know the leaders of the world, and the great forces, the hatreds, the fears that divide the world.

I know that peace does not come through wishing for it–that there is no substitute for days and even years of patient and prolonged diplomacy.

I also know the people of the world.

I have seen the hunger of a homeless child, the pain of a man wounded in battle, the grief of a mother who has lost her son. I know these have no ideology, no race.

I know America. I know the heart of America is good.

I speak from my own heart, and the heart of my country, the deep concern we have for those who suffer, and those who sorrow.

I have taken an oath today in the presence of God and my countrymen to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. To that oath I now add this sacred commitment: I shall consecrate my office, my energies, and all the wisdom I can summon, to the cause of peace among nations.

Let this message be heard by strong and weak alike:

The peace we seek to win is not victory over any other people, but the peace that comes “with healing in its wings”; with compassion for those who have suffered; with understanding for those who have opposed us; with the opportunity for all the peoples of this earth to choose their own destiny.

Only a few short weeks ago, we shared the glory of man’s first sight of the world as God sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the darkness.

As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon’s gray surface on Christmas Eve, they spoke to us of the beauty of earth–and in that voice so clear across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God’s blessing on its goodness.

In that moment, their view from the moon moved poet Archibald MacLeish to write:

“To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold–brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

In that moment of surpassing technological triumph, men turned their thoughts toward home and humanity–seeing in that far perspective that man’s destiny on earth is not divisible; telling us that however far we reach into the cosmos, our destiny lies not in the stars but on Earth itself, in our own hands, in our own hearts.

We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes catch the dimness of the first rays of dawn, let us not curse the remaining dark. Let us gather the light.

Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness– and, “riders on the earth together,” let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.


Barack Hussein Obama


Barack Obama
Inaugural Address
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Democrats take back the White House in the 2008 election. Barack Hussein Obama a senator from Illinois defeated John Sidney McCain III a senator from Arizona.

The oath of office was taken on the Bible used by President Abraham Lincoln, it was administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. An estimated 1.8 million people packed the National Mall and surrounding areas for the inauguration ceremony.


My fellow Americans, I stand before you today, humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices born by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation , as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

44 Americans have now taken the presidential oath. Words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity, and the still waters of peace. Yet every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds, and raging storms.

At these moments, America has carried on, not simply because of the vision or skill of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents. So it has been, so it must be with THIS generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood.

Our nation is at war with a far reaching network of violence and hatred.

Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices, and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered, our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings brings new evidence that the way we use energy strengthens our adversaries and threatens our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound is the sapping of confidence across our land, a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time, but know this America, THEY WILL BE MET!

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations, and worn out dogmas that for far too long have strangles our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation, the God given promise that ALL are equal, ALL are free, and ALL deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given.

It must be earned.

Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame, rather it has been the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things, some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops, and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip, and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought, and died, in places like Concord, and Gettysburg, Normandy, and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed until their hands were raw, so that we might live a better life.

They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions, greater than all the differences of birth, or wealth, or faction.

THIS is the journey we continue today.

We remain the most prosperous powerful nation on Earth.

Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.

Our minds are no less inventive.

Our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.

Our capacity remains undiminished, but our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions. . .that time has surely passed.

Starting TODAY, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. . .

. . .for everywhere we look there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay new foundations for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories, and we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do.

All this we WILL do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans.

Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand, is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

The question we ask to day is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is YES, we intend to move forward, where the answer is NO, programs will end, and those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill.

Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control, the nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended, not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity, on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart, not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers . . . .

Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedients’ sake. . .

. . .and so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitols, to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman, and child, who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism, not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use, our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy.

Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to is people, and forge a hard earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now, that our spirit is stronger, and cannot be broken.

You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you!

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth, and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger, and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass, that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve, that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself, and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their societies’ ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow, to nourish starved bodies, and feed hungry minds, and to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.

For the world has changed, and we much change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them, not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service, a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us ALL.

For as a government can do, and must do, it us ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job, which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighters’ courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty, and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism, these things are old, these things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then, is a return to these truths.

What is required of us now, is a new era of responsibility, a recognition on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence, the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father, less than 60 years ago, might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are, and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capitol was abandoned, the enemy was advancing, the snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children, that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter, and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.





Franklin Delano Roosevelt

First Inaugural Speech

Given in Washington, D.C. March 4th, 1933

President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:

This is a day of national consecration, and I am certain that my fellow-Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our nation impels.

This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself. . . nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels: taxes have risen, our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income, the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade, the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side, farmers find no markets for their produce, the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failures and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money.

Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.

They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.

The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.

The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be values only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit, and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This nation asks for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously.

It can be accompanied in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our national resources.

Hand in hand with this, we must frankly recognize the over-balance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.

The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities.

It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss, through foreclosure, of our small homes and our farms.

It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced.

It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character.

There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act, and act quickly.

Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order: there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

These are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo.

Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are, to point in time and necessity, secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy.

I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic.

It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States. . . a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer.

It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor. . .the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others. . .the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other: that we cannot merely take, but we must give as well, that if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because, without such discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline because it makes possibly a leadership which aims at a larger good.

This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will hind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people, dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors.

Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form.

That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.

It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me.

I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis. . .broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity, with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values, with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike.

We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action.

They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I will take it.

In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us! May He guide me in the days to come!



Second Inaugural Address


Franklin D. Roosevelt
Second Inaugural Address
Wednesday, January 20, 1937

For the first time the inauguration of the President was held on January 20, pursuant to the provisions of the 20th amendment to the Constitution. Having won the election of 1936 by a wide margin, and looking forward to the advantage of Democratic gains in the House and Senate, the President confidently outlined the continuation of his programs. The oath of office was administered on the East Portico of the Capitol by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.


When four years ago we met to inaugurate a President, the Republic, single-minded in anxiety, stood in spirit here. We dedicated ourselves to the fulfillment of a vision–to speed the time when there would be for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action, tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did those first things first.

Our covenant with ourselves did not stop there. Instinctively we recognized a deeper need–the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men.

We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.

In this we Americans were discovering no wholly new truth; we were writing a new chapter in our book of self-government.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Constitutional Convention which made us a nation. At that Convention our forefathers found the way out of the chaos which followed the Revolutionary War; they created a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution. A century and a half ago they established the Federal Government in order to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to the American people.

Today we invoke those same powers of government to achieve the same objectives.

Four years of new experience have not belied our historic instinct. They hold out the clear hope that government within communities, government within the separate States, and government of the United States can do the things the times require, without yielding its democracy. Our tasks in the last four years did not force democracy to take a holiday.

Nearly all of us recognize that as intricacies of human relationships increase, so power to govern them also must increase–power to stop evil; power to do good. The essential democracy of our Nation and the safety of our people depend not upon the absence of power, but upon lodging it with those whom the people can change or continue at stated intervals through an honest and free system of elections. The Constitution of 1787 did not make our democracy impotent.

In fact, in these last four years, we have made the exercise of all power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public’s government. The legend that they were invincible–above and beyond the processes of a democracy–has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten.

Our progress out of the depression is obvious. But that is not all that you and I mean by the new order of things. Our pledge was not merely to do a patchwork job with secondhand materials. By using the new materials of social justice we have undertaken to erect on the old foundations a more enduring structure for the better use of future generations.

In that purpose we have been helped by achievements of mind and spirit. Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.

This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.

In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.

For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America.

Among men of good will, science and democracy together offer an ever-richer life and ever-larger satisfaction to the individual. With this change in our moral climate and our rediscovered ability to improve our economic order, we have set our feet upon the road of enduring progress.

Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead? Shall we call this the promised land? Or, shall we continue on our way? For “each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth.”

Many voices are heard as we face a great decision. Comfort says, “Tarry a while.” Opportunism says, “This is a good spot.” Timidity asks, “How difficult is the road ahead?”

True, we have come far from the days of stagnation and despair. Vitality has been preserved. Courage and confidence have been restored. Mental and moral horizons have been extended.

But our present gains were won under the pressure of more than ordinary circumstances. Advance became imperative under the goad of fear and suffering. The times were on the side of progress.

To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose.

Let us ask again: Have we reached the goal of our vision of that fourth day of March 1933? Have we found our happy valley?

I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great wealth of natural resources. Its hundred and thirty million people are at peace among themselves; they are making their country a good neighbor among the nations. I see a United States which can demonstrate that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be translated into a spreading volume of human comforts hitherto unknown, and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of mere subsistence.

But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens–a substantial part of its whole population–who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope–because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

If I know aught of the spirit and purpose of our Nation, we will not listen to Comfort, Opportunism, and Timidity. We will carry on. Overwhelmingly, we of the Republic are men and women of good will; men and women who have more than warm hearts of dedication; men and women who have cool heads and willing hands of practical purpose as well. They will insist that every agency of popular government use effective instruments to carry out their will.

Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when the people receive true information of all that government does.

If I know aught of the will of our people, they will demand that these conditions of effective government shall be created and maintained. They will demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and, therefore, strong among the nations in its example of the will to peace.

Today we reconsecrate our country to long-cherished ideals in a suddenly changed civilization. In every land there are always at work forces that drive men apart and forces that draw men together. In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as one people.

To maintain a democracy of effort requires a vast amount of patience in dealing with differing methods, a vast amount of humility. But out of the confusion of many voices rises an understanding of dominant public need. Then political leadership can voice common ideals, and aid in their realization.

In taking again the oath of office as President of the United States, I assume the solemn obligation of leading the American people forward along the road over which they have chosen to advance.

While this duty rests upon me I shall do my utmost to speak their purpose and to do their will, seeking Divine guidance to help us each and every one to give light to them that sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace.



Third Inaugural Address

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Third Inaugural Address
Monday, January 20, 1941

The only chief executive to serve more than two terms, President Roosevelt took office for the third time as Europe and Asia engaged in war. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes on the East Portico of the Capitol. The Roosevelts hosted a reception for several thousand visitors at the White House later that day.


On each national day of inauguration since 1789, the people have renewed their sense of dedication to the United States.

In Washington’s day the task of the people was to create and weld together a nation.

In Lincoln’s day the task of the people was to preserve that Nation from disruption from within.

In this day the task of the people is to save that Nation and its institutions from disruption from without.

To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause for a moment and take stock–to recall what our place in history has been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we risk the real peril of inaction.

Lives of nations are determined not by the count of years, but by the lifetime of the human spirit. The life of a man is three-score years and ten: a little more, a little less. The life of a nation is the fullness of the measure of its will to live.

There are men who doubt this. There are men who believe that democracy, as a form of Government and a frame of life, is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate that, for some unexplained reason, tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future–and that freedom is an ebbing tide.

But we Americans know that this is not true.

Eight years ago, when the life of this Republic seemed frozen by a fatalistic terror, we proved that this is not true. We were in the midst of shock–but we acted. We acted quickly, boldly, decisively.

These later years have been living years–fruitful years for the people of this democracy. For they have brought to us greater security and, I hope, a better understanding that life’s ideals are to be measured in other than material things. Most vital to our present and our future is this experience of a democracy which successfully survived crisis at home; put away many evil things; built new structures on enduring lines; and, through it all, maintained the fact of its democracy.

For action has been taken within the three-way framework of the Constitution of the United States. The coordinate branches of the Government continue freely to function. The Bill of Rights remains inviolate. The freedom of elections is wholly maintained. Prophets of the downfall of American democracy have seen their dire predictions come to naught.

Democracy is not dying.

We know it because we have seen it revive–and grow.

We know it cannot die–because it is built on the unhampered initiative of individual men and women joined together in a common enterprise–an enterprise undertaken and carried through by the free expression of a free majority.

We know it because democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists the full force of men’s enlightened will.

We know it because democracy alone has constructed an unlimited civilization capable of infinite progress in the improvement of human life.

We know it because, if we look below the surface, we sense it still spreading on every continent–for it is the most humane, the most advanced, and in the end the most unconquerable of all forms of human society.

A nation, like a person, has a body–a body that must be fed and clothed and housed, invigorated and rested, in a manner that measures up to the objectives of our time.

A nation, like a person, has a mind–a mind that must be kept informed and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and the needs of its neighbors–all the other nations that live within the narrowing circle of the world.

And a nation, like a person, has something deeper, something more permanent, something larger than the sum of all its parts. It is that something which matters most to its future–which calls forth the most sacred guarding of its present.

It is a thing for which we find it difficult–even impossible–to hit upon a single, simple word.

And yet we all understand what it is–the spirit–the faith of America. It is the product of centuries. It was born in the multitudes of those who came from many lands–some of high degree, but mostly plain people, who sought here, early and late, to find freedom more freely. The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history. It is human history. It permeated the ancient life of early peoples. It blazed anew in the middle ages. It was written in Magna Charta.

In the Americas its impact has been irresistible. America has been the New World in all tongues, to all peoples, not because this continent was a new-found land, but because all those who came here believed they could create upon this continent a new life–a life that should be new in freedom.

Its vitality was written into our own Mayflower Compact, into the Declaration of Independence, into the Constitution of the United States, into the Gettysburg Address.

Those who first came here to carry out the longings of their spirit, and the millions who followed, and the stock that sprang from them–all have moved forward constantly and consistently toward an ideal which in itself has gained stature and clarity with each generation.

The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.

We know that we still have far to go; that we must more greatly build the security and the opportunity and the knowledge of every citizen, in the measure justified by the resources and the capacity of the land.

But it is not enough to achieve these purposes alone. It is not enough to clothe and feed the body of this Nation, and instruct and inform its mind. For there is also the spirit. And of the three, the greatest is the spirit.

Without the body and the mind, as all men know, the Nation could not live.

But if the spirit of America were killed, even though the Nation’s body and mind, constricted in an alien world, lived on, the America we know would have perished.

That spirit–that faith–speaks to us in our daily lives in ways often unnoticed, because they seem so obvious. It speaks to us here in the Capital of the Nation. It speaks to us through the processes of governing in the sovereignties of 48 States. It speaks to us in our counties, in our cities, in our towns, and in our villages. It speaks to us from the other nations of the hemisphere, and from those across the seas–the enslaved, as well as the free. Sometimes we fail to hear or heed these voices of freedom because to us the privilege of our freedom is such an old, old story.

The destiny of America was proclaimed in words of prophecy spoken by our first President in his first inaugural in 1789–words almost directed, it would seem, to this year of 1941: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered … deeply, … finally, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people.”

If we lose that sacred fire–if we let it be smothered with doubt and fear–then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so valiantly and so triumphantly to establish. The preservation of the spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of national defense.

In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy.

For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America.

We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.



Fourth Inaugural Address

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fourth Inaugural Address
Saturday, January 20, 1945

The fourth inauguration was conducted without fanfare. Because of the expense and impropriety of festivity during the height of war, the oath of office was taken on the South Portico of the White House. It was administered by Chief Justice Harlan Stone. No formal celebrations followed the address. Instead of renominating Vice President Henry Wallace in the election of 1944, the Democratic convention chose the Senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman.


Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, my friends, you will understand and, I believe, agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief.

We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage–of our resolve–of our wisdom–our essential democracy.

If we meet that test–successfully and honorably–we shall perform a service of historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time.

As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my fellow countrymen–in the presence of our God– I know that it is America’s purpose that we shall not fail.

In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war.

We can and we will achieve such a peace.

We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediately–but we still shall strive. We may make mistakes–but they must never be mistakes which result from faintness of heart or abandonment of moral principle.

I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said, in days that seemed to us then to be secure and untroubled: “Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights–then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend.”

Our Constitution of 1787 was not a perfect instrument; it is not perfect yet. But it provided a firm base upon which all manner of men, of all races and colors and creeds, could build our solid structure of democracy.

And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons– at a fearful cost–and we shall profit by them.

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.

We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear.

We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.

The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.

So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly–to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men–to the achievement of His will to peace on earth.



Harry S. Truman



Harry S. Truman
Inaugural Address
Thursday, January 20, 1949

A former county judge, Senator and Vice President, Harry S. Truman had taken the oath of office first on April 12, 1945, upon the death of President Roosevelt. Mr. Truman’s victory in the 1948 election was so unexpected that many newspapers had declared the Republican candidate, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, the winner. The President went to the East Portico of the Capitol to take the oath of office on two Bibles–the personal one he had used for the first oath, and a Gutenberg Bible donated by the citizens of Independence, Missouri. The ceremony was televised as well as broadcast on the radio.



Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, and fellow citizens, I accept with humility the honor which the American people have conferred upon me. I accept it with a deep resolve to do all that I can for the welfare of this Nation and for the peace of the world.

In performing the duties of my office, I need the help and prayers of every one of you. I ask for your encouragement and your support. The tasks we face are difficult, and we can accomplish them only if we work together.

Each period of our national history has had its special challenges. Those that confront us now are as momentous as any in the past. Today marks the beginning not only of a new administration, but of a period that will be eventful, perhaps decisive, for us and for the world.

It may be our lot to experience, and in large measure to bring about, a major turning point in the long history of the human race. The first half of this century has been marked by unprecedented and brutal attacks on the rights of man, and by the two most frightful wars in history. The supreme need of our time is for men to learn to live together in peace and harmony.

The peoples of the earth face the future with grave uncertainty, composed almost equally of great hopes and great fears. In this time of doubt, they look to the United States as never before for good will, strength, and wise leadership.

It is fitting, therefore, that we take this occasion to proclaim to the world the essential principles of the faith by which we live, and to declare our aims to all peoples.

The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this Nation from the beginning. We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. We believe that all men have the right to freedom of thought and expression. We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.

From this faith we will not be moved.

The American people desire, and are determined to work for, a world in which all nations and all peoples are free to govern themselves as they see fit, and to achieve a decent and satisfying life. Above all else, our people desire, and are determined to work for, peace on earth–a just and lasting peace–based on genuine agreement freely arrived at by equals.

In the pursuit of these aims, the United States and other like-minded nations find themselves directly opposed by a regime with contrary aims and a totally different concept of life.

That regime adheres to a false philosophy which purports to offer freedom, security, and greater opportunity to mankind. Misled by this philosophy, many peoples have sacrificed their liberties only to learn to their sorrow that deceit and mockery, poverty and tyranny, are their reward.

That false philosophy is communism.

Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule of strong masters.

Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.

Communism subjects the individual to arrest without lawful cause, punishment without trial, and forced labor as the chattel of the state. It decrees what information he shall receive, what art he shall produce, what leaders he shall follow, and what thoughts he shall think.

Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of the individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the individual and his freedom in the exercise of his abilities.

Communism maintains that social wrongs can be corrected only by violence.

Democracy has proved that social justice can be achieved through peaceful change.

Communism holds that the world is so deeply divided into opposing classes that war is inevitable.

Democracy holds that free nations can settle differences justly and maintain lasting peace.

These differences between communism and democracy do not concern the United States alone. People everywhere are coming to realize that what is involved is material well-being, human dignity, and the right to believe in and worship God.

I state these differences, not to draw issues of belief as such, but because the actions resulting from the Communist philosophy are a threat to the efforts of free nations to bring about world recovery and lasting peace.

Since the end of hostilities, the United States has invested its substance and its energy in a great constructive effort to restore peace, stability, and freedom to the world.

We have sought no territory and we have imposed our will on none. We have asked for no privileges we would not extend to others.

We have constantly and vigorously supported the United Nations and related agencies as a means of applying democratic principles to international relations. We have consistently advocated and relied upon peaceful settlement of disputes among nations.

We have made every effort to secure agreement on effective international control of our most powerful weapon, and we have worked steadily for the limitation and control of all armaments.

We have encouraged, by precept and example, the expansion of world trade on a sound and fair basis.

Almost a year ago, in company with 16 free nations of Europe, we launched the greatest cooperative economic program in history. The purpose of that unprecedented effort is to invigorate and strengthen democracy in Europe, so that the free people of that continent can resume their rightful place in the forefront of civilization and can contribute once more to the security and welfare of the world.

Our efforts have brought new hope to all mankind. We have beaten back despair and defeatism. We have saved a number of countries from losing their liberty. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world now agree with us, that we need not have war–that we can have peace.

The initiative is ours.

We are moving on with other nations to build an even stronger structure of international order and justice. We shall have as our partners countries which, no longer solely concerned with the problem of national survival, are now working to improve the standards of living of all their people. We are ready to undertake new projects to strengthen the free world.

In the coming years, our program for peace and freedom will emphasize four major courses of action. First, we will continue to give unfaltering support to the United Nations and related agencies, and we will continue to search for ways to strengthen their authority and increase their effectiveness. We believe that the United Nations will be strengthened by the new nations which are being formed in lands now advancing toward self-government under democratic principles.

Second, we will continue our programs for world economic recovery.

This means, first of all, that we must keep our full weight behind the European recovery program. We are confident of the success of this major venture in world recovery. We believe that our partners in this effort will achieve the status of self-supporting nations once again.

In addition, we must carry out our plans for reducing the barriers to world trade and increasing its volume. Economic recovery and peace itself depend on increased world trade.

Third, we will strengthen freedom-loving nations against the dangers of aggression.

We are now working out with a number of countries a joint agreement designed to strengthen the security of the North Atlantic area. Such an agreement would take the form of a collective defense arrangement within the terms of the United Nations Charter.

We have already established such a defense pact for the Western Hemisphere by the treaty of Rio de Janeiro.

The primary purpose of these agreements is to provide unmistakable proof of the joint determination of the free countries to resist armed attack from any quarter. Each country participating in these arrangements must contribute all it can to the common defense.

If we can make it sufficiently clear, in advance, that any armed attack affecting our national security would be met with overwhelming force, the armed attack might never occur.

I hope soon to send to the Senate a treaty respecting the North Atlantic security plan.

In addition, we will provide military advice and equipment to free nations which will cooperate with us in the maintenance of peace and security.

Fourth, we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.

More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas.

For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people.

The United States is pre-eminent among nations in the development of industrial and scientific techniques. The material resources which we can afford to use for the assistance of other peoples are limited. But our imponderable resources in technical knowledge are constantly growing and are inexhaustible.

I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life. And, in cooperation with other nations, we should foster capital investment in areas needing development.

Our aim should be to help the free peoples of the world, through their own efforts, to produce more food, more clothing, more materials for housing, and more mechanical power to lighten their burdens.

We invite other countries to pool their technological resources in this undertaking. Their contributions will be warmly welcomed. This should be a cooperative enterprise in which all nations work together through the United Nations and its specialized agencies wherever practicable. It must be a worldwide effort for the achievement of peace, plenty, and freedom.

With the cooperation of business, private capital, agriculture, and labor in this country, this program can greatly increase the industrial activity in other nations and can raise substantially their standards of living.

Such new economic developments must be devised and controlled to benefit the peoples of the areas in which they are established. Guarantees to the investor must be balanced by guarantees in the interest of the people whose resources and whose labor go into these developments.

The old imperialism–exploitation for foreign profit–has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair-dealing.

All countries, including our own, will greatly benefit from a constructive program for the better use of the world’s human and natural resources. Experience shows that our commerce with other countries expands as they progress industrially and economically.

Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge.

Only by helping the least fortunate of its members to help themselves can the human family achieve the decent, satisfying life that is the right of all people. Democracy alone can supply the vitalizing force to stir the peoples of the world into triumphant action, not only against their human oppressors, but also against their ancient enemies– hunger, misery, and despair.

On the basis of these four major courses of action we hope to help create the conditions that will lead eventually to personal freedom and happiness for all mankind.

If we are to be successful in carrying out these policies, it is clear that we must have continued prosperity in this country and we must keep ourselves strong.

Slowly but surely we are weaving a world fabric of international security and growing prosperity.

We are aided by all who wish to live in freedom from fear–even by those who live today in fear under their own governments.

We are aided by all who want relief from the lies of propaganda– who desire truth and sincerity.

We are aided by all who desire self-government and a voice in deciding their own affairs.

We are aided by all who long for economic security–for the security and abundance that men in free societies can enjoy.

We are aided by all who desire freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to live their own lives for useful ends.

Our allies are the millions who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

In due time, as our stability becomes manifest, as more and more nations come to know the benefits of democracy and to participate in growing abundance, I believe that those countries which now oppose us will abandon their delusions and join with the free nations of the world in a just settlement of international differences.

Events have brought our American democracy to new influence and new responsibilities. They will test our courage, our devotion to duty, and our concept of liberty.

But I say to all men, what we have achieved in liberty, we will surpass in greater liberty.

Steadfast in our faith in the Almighty, we will advance toward a world where man’s freedom is secure.

To that end we will devote our strength, our resources, and our firmness of resolve. With God’s help, the future of mankind will be assured in a world of justice, harmony, and peace.




George W. Bush


First Inaugural Address


George W. Bush
Inaugural Address
Saturday, January 20, 2001

The first president of the new millenium was sworn in on a cold, damp day with his wife and two daughters by his side. Bush took the executive oath on the same Bible George Washington used in 1789 and his father used in 1989. The ceremony occurred on a platform on the terrace of the West Front of the Capitol. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He spoke for 14 minutes.


This peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions, and make new beginnings. As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation. And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit, and ended with grace.

I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many of America’s leaders have come before me, and so many will follow.

We have a place, all of us, in a long story; a story we continue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old. The story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom. The story of a power that went into world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer. It is the American story; a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.

The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise: that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born. Americans are called to enact this promise in our lives and in our laws. And though our nation has sometimes halted, and sometimes delayed, we must follow no other course.

Through much of the last century, America’s faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations. Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the inborn hope of our humanity; an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust we bear and pass along. And even after nearly 225 years, we have a long way yet to travel.

While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise – even the justice – of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools, and hidden prejudice, and the circumstances of their birth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country.

We do not accept this, and will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.

I know this is within our reach, because we are guided by a power larger than ourselves, Who creates us equal in His image.

And we are confident in principles that unite and lead us onward.

America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.

Today we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.

America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.

Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small. But the stakes, for America, are never small. If our country does not lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine their idealism. If we permit our economy to drift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most.

We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.

America, at its best, is also courageous.

Our national courage has been clear in times of depression and war, when defeating common dangers defined our common good. Now we must choose if the example of our fathers and mothers will inspire us or condemn us. We must show courage in a time of blessing, by confronting problems instead of passing them on to future generations.

Together we will reclaim America’s schools, before ignorance and apathy claim more young lives. We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent. We will reduce taxes, to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans. We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.

The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake. America remains engaged in the world, by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.

America, at its best, is compassionate.

In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation’s promise. And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk are not at fault. Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are failures of love. And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is no substitute for hope and order in our souls.

Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need are not strangers, they are citizens; not problems, but priorities; and all of us are diminished when any are hopeless.

Government has great responsibilities, for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government. And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a mentor’s touch or a pastor’s prayer. Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and laws.

Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty. But we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.

America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.

Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper fulfillment. We find the fullness of life, not only in options, but in commitments. And we find that children and community are the commitments that set us free.

Our public interest depends on private character; on civic duty and family bonds and basic fairness; on uncounted, unhonored acts of decency which give direction to our freedom.

Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with great love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone.

I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility; to pursue the public interest with courage; to speak for greater justice and compassion; to call for reponsibility, and try to live it as well. In all these ways, I will bring the values of our history to the care of our times.

What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.

Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it. When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it.

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: “We know the Race is not to the swift nor the Battle to the Strong. Do you not think an Angel rides in the Whirlwind and directs this Storm?”

Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inaugural. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: our nation’s grand story of courage, and its simple dream of dignity.

We are not this story’s Author, Who fills time and eternity with His purpose. Yet His purpose is achieved in our duty; and duty is fulfilled in service to one another.

Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today: to make our country more just and generous; to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.

This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.

God bless you, and God bless our country.



Second Inaugural Address


George W. Bush
Inaugural Address
Thursday, January 20, 2005

President Bush took the oath of office shortly before noon on a chilly, overcast day. The first snow of the season came the day before and there was a little over an inch of snow on the ground. The ceremony occurred on a platform on the terrace of the West Front of the Capitol. The oath of office was again administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist.


Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:

On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.

At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical – and then there came a day of fire.

We have seen our vulnerability – and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder – violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America’s influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.

My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America’s resolve, and have found it firm.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty – though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom’s enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies’ defeat.

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well – a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.

A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause – in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy … the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments … the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives – and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice.

All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself – and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.

America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home – the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.

In America’s ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance – preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

In America’s ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character – on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before – ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In America’s ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?

These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes – and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now” – they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, “It rang as if it meant something.” In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength – tested, but not weary – we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.



George Bush


Inaugural Address


George Bush
Inaugural Address
Friday, January 20, 1989

The 200th anniversary of the Presidency was observed as George Bush took the executive oath on the same Bible George Washington used in 1789. The ceremony occurred on a platform on the terrace of the West Front of the Capitol. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. After the ceremony the President and Mrs. Bush led the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House, walking along several blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue to greet the spectators.


Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Quayle, Senator Mitchell, Speaker Wright, Senator Dole, Congressman Michel, and fellow citizens, neighbors, and friends:

There is a man here who has earned a lasting place in our hearts and in our history. President Reagan, on behalf of our Nation, I thank you for the wonderful things that you have done for America.

I have just repeated word for word the oath taken by George Washington 200 years ago, and the Bible on which I placed my hand is the Bible on which he placed his. It is right that the memory of Washington be with us today, not only because this is our Bicentennial Inauguration, but because Washington remains the Father of our Country. And he would, I think, be gladdened by this day; for today is the concrete expression of a stunning fact: our continuity these 200 years since our government began.

We meet on democracy’s front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences, for a moment, are suspended.

And my first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads:

Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: “Use power to help people.” For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. Amen.

I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man’s heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on. There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken. There are times when the future seems thick as a fog; you sit and wait, hoping the mists will lift and reveal the right path. But this is a time when the future seems a door you can walk right through into a room called tomorrow.

Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy through the door to freedom. Men and women of the world move toward free markets through the door to prosperity. The people of the world agitate for free expression and free thought through the door to the moral and intellectual satisfactions that only liberty allows.

We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state. For the first time in this century, for the first time in perhaps all history, man does not have to invent a system by which to live. We don’t have to talk late into the night about which form of government is better. We don’t have to wrest justice from the kings. We only have to summon it from within ourselves. We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.

America today is a proud, free nation, decent and civil, a place we cannot help but love. We know in our hearts, not loudly and proudly, but as a simple fact, that this country has meaning beyond what we see, and that our strength is a force for good. But have we changed as a nation even in our time? Are we enthralled with material things, less appreciative of the nobility of work and sacrifice?

My friends, we are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?

No President, no government, can teach us to remember what is best in what we are. But if the man you have chosen to lead this government can help make a difference; if he can celebrate the quieter, deeper successes that are made not of gold and silk, but of better hearts and finer souls; if he can do these things, then he must.

America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world. My friends, we have work to do. There are the homeless, lost and roaming. There are the children who have nothing, no love, no normalcy. There are those who cannot free themselves of enslavement to whatever addiction–drugs, welfare, the demoralization that rules the slums. There is crime to be conquered, the rough crime of the streets. There are young women to be helped who are about to become mothers of children they can’t care for and might not love. They need our care, our guidance, and our education, though we bless them for choosing life.

The old solution, the old way, was to think that public money alone could end these problems. But we have learned that is not so. And in any case, our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down. We have more will than wallet; but will is what we need. We will make the hard choices, looking at what we have and perhaps allocating it differently, making our decisions based on honest need and prudent safety. And then we will do the wisest thing of all: We will turn to the only resource we have that in times of need always grows–the goodness and the courage of the American people.

I am speaking of a new engagement in the lives of others, a new activism, hands-on and involved, that gets the job done. We must bring in the generations, harnessing the unused talent of the elderly and the unfocused energy of the young. For not only leadership is passed from generation to generation, but so is stewardship. And the generation born after the Second World War has come of age.

I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.

We need a new engagement, too, between the Executive and the Congress. The challenges before us will be thrashed out with the House and the Senate. We must bring the Federal budget into balance. And we must ensure that America stands before the world united, strong, at peace, and fiscally sound. But, of course, things may be difficult. We need compromise; we have had dissension. We need harmony; we have had a chorus of discordant voices.

For Congress, too, has changed in our time. There has grown a certain divisiveness. We have seen the hard looks and heard the statements in which not each other’s ideas are challenged, but each other’s motives. And our great parties have too often been far apart and untrusting of each other. It has been this way since Vietnam. That war cleaves us still. But, friends, that war began in earnest a quarter of a century ago; and surely the statute of limitations has been reached. This is a fact: The final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long afford to be sundered by a memory. A new breeze is blowing, and the old bipartisanship must be made new again.

To my friends–and yes, I do mean friends–in the loyal opposition–and yes, I mean loyal: I put out my hand. I am putting out my hand to you, Mr. Speaker. I am putting out my hand to you Mr. Majority Leader. For this is the thing: This is the age of the offered hand. We can’t turn back clocks, and I don’t want to. But when our fathers were young, Mr. Speaker, our differences ended at the water’s edge. And we don’t wish to turn back time, but when our mothers were young, Mr. Majority Leader, the Congress and the Executive were capable of working together to produce a budget on which this nation could live. Let us negotiate soon and hard. But in the end, let us produce. The American people await action. They didn’t send us here to bicker. They ask us to rise above the merely partisan. “In crucial things, unity”–and this, my friends, is crucial.

To the world, too, we offer new engagement and a renewed vow: We will stay strong to protect the peace. The “offered hand” is a reluctant fist; but once made, strong, and can be used with great effect. There are today Americans who are held against their will in foreign lands, and Americans who are unaccounted for. Assistance can be shown here, and will be long remembered. Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on.

Great nations like great men must keep their word. When America says something, America means it, whether a treaty or an agreement or a vow made on marble steps. We will always try to speak clearly, for candor is a compliment, but subtlety, too, is good and has its place. While keeping our alliances and friendships around the world strong, ever strong, we will continue the new closeness with the Soviet Union, consistent both with our security and with progress. One might say that our new relationship in part reflects the triumph of hope and strength over experience. But hope is good, and so are strength and vigilance.

Here today are tens of thousands of our citizens who feel the understandable satisfaction of those who have taken part in democracy and seen their hopes fulfilled. But my thoughts have been turning the past few days to those who would be watching at home to an older fellow who will throw a salute by himself when the flag goes by, and the women who will tell her sons the words of the battle hymns. I don’t mean this to be sentimental. I mean that on days like this, we remember that we are all part of a continuum, inescapably connected by the ties that bind.

Our children are watching in schools throughout our great land. And to them I say, thank you for watching democracy’s big day. For democracy belongs to us all, and freedom is like a beautiful kite that can go higher and higher with the breeze. And to all I say: No matter what your circumstances or where you are, you are part of this day, you are part of the life of our great nation.

A President is neither prince nor pope, and I don’t seek a window on men’s souls. In fact, I yearn for a greater tolerance, an easy-goingness about each other’s attitudes and way of life.

There are few clear areas in which we as a society must rise up united and express our intolerance. The most obvious now is drugs. And when that first cocaine was smuggled in on a ship, it may as well have been a deadly bacteria, so much has it hurt the body, the soul of our country. And there is much to be done and to be said, but take my word for it: This scourge will stop.

And so, there is much to do; and tomorrow the work begins. I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God’s love is truly boundless.

Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity–shared, and written, together.

Thank you. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.




Ronald Reagan


First Inaugural Address

Ronald Reagan
First Inaugural Address
Tuesday, January 20, 1981

For the first time, an inauguration ceremony was held on the terrace of the West Front of the Capitol. Chief Justice Warren Burger administered the oath of office to the former broadcaster, screen actor, and Governor of California. In the election of 1980, the Republicans won the White House and a majority in the Senate. On inauguration day, American hostages held by the revolutionary government of Iran were released.


Senator Hatfield, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Bush, Vice President Mondale, Senator Baker, Speaker O’Neill, Reverend Moomaw, and my fellow citizens: To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our Nation, it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.

Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.

The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.

Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.


But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.

You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?

We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding–we are going to begin to act, beginning today.

The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem.

From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.

We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick–professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They are, in short, “We the people,” this breed called Americans.

Well, this administration’s objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination. Putting America back to work means putting all Americans back to work. Ending inflation means freeing all Americans from the terror of runaway living costs. All must share in the productive work of this “new beginning” and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America at peace with itself and the world.

So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government–not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.

Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work-work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, loomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will all on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew; our faith and our hope.

We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter–and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They are individuals and families whose taxes support the Government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life.

I have used the words “they” and “their” in speaking of these heroes. I could say “you” and “your” because I am addressing the heroes of whom I speak–you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God.

We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?

Can we solve the problems confronting us? Well, the answer is an unequivocal and emphatic “yes.” To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I have just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world’s strongest economy.

In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government. Progress may be slow–measured in inches and feet, not miles–but we will progress. Is it time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles, there will be no compromise.

On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of…. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”

Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.

To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for or own sovereignty is not for sale.

As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it–now or ever.

Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.

I am told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I am deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inauguration Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.

This is the first time in history that this ceremony has been held, as you have been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man: George Washington, Father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence.

And then beyond the Reflecting Pool the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery with its row on row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.

Each one of those markers is a monument to the kinds of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.

Under one such marker lies a young man–Martin Treptow–who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”

The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.

And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you.








[All images including cover courtesy:]

I am what I was…

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Justification Of US Military Intervention In Cuba


Northwoods Document


The following images are copy of document that was classified as Northwoods Document. Now declassified (not all pages) from CIA archive.

The following depicts a proposal and a methodology  of how Cuba could have been attacked on pretext of being a threat against United States.

The following gives us an idea of how intelligence services works. These type of works are not specific to any country. It is a standard implementation of national security and a job for those who are in the top of the security system in a country, not only United States.
























I am what I was…

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David Guyatt


Vietnam Special Forces Air Combat Controller; 25-year CIA deep-cover agent; US Army pilot flying classified missions during the US invasion of Grenada; Iran-Contra pilot flying cocaine shipments labeled as medical supplies; and member of the ultrasecret, international G7-run Pegasus “hit team”…this is the extraordinary story of Gene “Chip” Tatum.
From sensitive, highly secretive (and hitherto largely unknown) Special Forces covert operations in Cambodia, to wandering CIA asset; through to “black ops” activities in Grenada and Oliver North’s Iran-Contra “Enterprise”, as well as membership in an international “hit team”, Gene “Chip” Tatum has seen it all, done it all and is now telling it all.
Tatum claims to know where the skeletons are buried. Above all, he is aware that his testimony implicates serving and former US Presidents plus a whole list of high-level government officials and others in a welter of nefarious activities – including assassination, blackmail, coercion, gun-running, money-laundering and cocaine trafficking.
Tatum, a lanky Floridian, turned whistleblower following his arrest on treason charges in early 1995. The charge was both astonishing and patently ludicrous, and was later dropped and replaced by a fraud charge – a drastic step-down. Found guilty, he was sentenced to serve a 15-month sentence. In March 1996, an additional charge – conspiring to embezzle – was brought against him. Found guilty, he was incarcerated in Jesup Federal Correctional Facility, Georgia, where he is serving a 27-month concurrent sentence. Ensuing press interest resulted in one article appearing in the Tampa Tribune on 4 May 1996.
Many questions continue to hang over the conduct of the trial. His defence lawyer refused to call any of the 80 witnesses whom Tatum nominated for the defence. Later, his lawyer freely confessed to having come under pressure from the US Department of Defense. Tatum says the first charge was a set-up to discredit him following his “resignation” from “Operation Pegasus”. The second charge he views with greater scepticism and concern.
Tatum’s resignation from Pegasus followed his refusal to “neutralise” a leading US political figure in the 1992 US presidential elections. Tatum declares he will not “participate in assassinations of any sort, character assassinations or anything, of American citizens”. He goes on to explain that back in 1994, in a telephone conference call involving Oliver North, Felix Rodríguez and the late William Colby of the CIA, he was warned to turn over incriminating documents and tapes he had accumulated for his “retirement”. He wryly observes that had he done so, he would probably have been quickly “terminated” in an “extreme” way – a speciality of the Pegasus team of which he was once a member.
Countering this demand, Tatum volunteered to plead guilty on a fabricated felony count and serve a 12-month sentence – so that his credibility would be damaged in the event he ever decided to speak out. His incarceration for the second charge – and especially the six- month sentence of his wife, Nancy – led him to speak out about his life, almost 30 years of which he served as a “black” operative, and to reveal and destroy the command structure of Pegasus. It is an extraordinary story.


Tatum has written of his early career in the military, and his involvement in a highly sensitive and classified operation, in an unpublished manuscript entitled “Operation Red Rock”. Joining the Air Force in February 1970, he went through Army jump school, escape and evasion training, jungle training, sea survival school and diving school and was assigned along with six others as “Combat Controllers” (the USAF equivalent of Special Forces), receiving his distinctive Special Forces burgundy-coloured beret. From there he was assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and then on to Fort Bragg, North Carolina – home of the “Green Berets” – for training in C4 plastic explosives, mines, nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, plus indoctrination in electronic and psychological operations. 
Posted to South-East Asia as Airman First Class (A1C) in December 1970, he was assigned as a radio operator on a Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft attached to Task Force Alpha at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. In short order he was recruited (an involuntary “volunteer”) to “Team Red Rock”. The team was composed of eight US Army Green Berets, three US Navy SEALs and two “cowboys” – a euphemism for CIA paramilitary specialists. With Tatum attached, Team Red Rock totalled 14 in all, and was about to be tasked with an operation that came directly from the White House.
In January 1971 the team received a final briefing from General Alexander Haig, who had flown in specially, along with CIA Saigon Chief William Colby – nicknamed by the team as “Mr Peepers” because of his resemblance to a well-known character in a TV sitcom. Haig and Colby outlined the plan, stressing its importance and extreme classification. President Nixon, desperate to quell domestic riots over an increasingly unpopular war, sought to withdraw all US personnel from South-East Asia. Withdrawal would – and, in the end, ultimately did – cause a military vacuum, quickly leading to the defeat of South Vietnamese forces.
During those years, Nixon was also running a “secret war” in Cambodia and Laos. In Laos, a dwindling number of Meo tribesmen, together with covert US personnel employed by the CIA proprietary company, Air America, were battling against superior North Vietnamese ground forces. A much similar pattern was occurring in Cambodia, amid grave fears that the “domino theory” would result if either of these two nations were to fall to the Communist North Vietnamese. Nixon hoped that native Cambodian forces could fill the vacuum caused by the withdrawal of US covert forces. Lon Nol, the Cambodian leader, stubbornly continued to resist Nixon’s diplomatic overtures to take up the slack, being anxious to hedge his bets and realistic about his chances of survival as Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces prepared to swarm in, unhindered by US air power.
A plan had been drawn up at the highest levels of Nixon’s administration. Team Red Rock were to enter Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, in secret and attack the airport and military and civil installations, wreaking as much havoc as possible. The plan called for the team to parachute into the outskirts of Phnom Penh, carrying captured NVA “Sappers” with them. Taken in unarmed and alive, the Sappers would be “sacrificed” and their bodies left to be discovered by Cambodian forces. A furious Lon Nol would assume North Vietnam was to blame. It was hoped that such an act would stiffen Lon Nol’s backbone. With nowhere else to turn, the US puppet would urgently seek US hardware to strengthen his forces and continue the battle.
The team members were not told that they, too, were to be sacrificed by their President to ensure that word of the operation never reached the light of day. A detachment of Montagnard tribesmen (“the Yards”), in the pay of the CIA, was assigned to liquidate each member of the team and dispose of the bodies. The attack went successfully, but the team’s suspicion of “the Yards” foiled the betrayal. Using their knowledge of “escape and evasion” tactics, the team decided to trek to the Vietnamese border and back to safety with US forces.
Casualties thinned out their numbers until only eight of them remained. Soon these, too, were captured by NVA regulars and underwent hideous torture at the hands of Chinese and Russian interrogators. Ultimately, only Tatum and one other team member survived the ordeal.
Convalescing, Tatum was debriefed by CIA station chief, William Colby, and told he would, in future, be kept close to “the Agency”. Recruited into the CIA, the yawning door of future “black” operations creaked open. Life would never be the same again for Chip Tatum.


For the next 10 years or so, Tatum’s covert activities were varied. For a while, he worked out of Homestead Air Force Base where he was NCIOC of the tower receiver sight and MARS station. This was the base which then-President Nixon used for his frequent visits to the Key Biscayne, Florida, “White House”. Much of this period remains obscured behind a thick blanket of classification.
From there, he was stationed in northern Italy, tasked with visiting the border towns of Yugoslavia and Italy. Colby felt that as a young Air Force man, Tatum might be “approached” in these towns for “information”. The idea was to make contact with foreign agents and covertly gather information about them and their operations. Later, he was tasked with infiltrating Yugoslavia in order to gather intelligence on potential successors to the then Yugoslavian President Tito.
Tatum was also sent to search for missing US POWs from Vietnam and elsewhere in South-East Asia.
By 1976, Tatum was operating out of Lamar, Colorado, in a communications facility called OLAB. His contact there was Don Holmes, president of Valley – a Savings & Loan bank.2 Tatum acted as his courier, shuttling between Lamar and Springfield, Colorado, with transaction files. From there he was transferred to MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida.
Shortly before his MacDill posting, Tatum received a call from Colby telling him he was resigning his position as Director, Central Intelligence, and recommending Tatum should deactivate his clandestine CIA activities. Colby continued, saying that remaining active without Colby there to protect him might place him in personal “jeopardy”, as he had powerful enemies in Washington. This warning referred to Nixon, Kissinger and Haig, and Tatum’s role in and survival from “Operation Red Rock”.
Tatum took good notice of the warning and became deactive. Later, in 1979, he requested and was granted entry into a USAF Reserve program. Leaving active military service he moved to Gunnison, Colorado, and took up a position with Bo Calloway, owner of the Crested Bute ski area. The appointment was arranged by Colby.
During 1980 he received a visit from two men who informed him he was being reactivated, but into the US Army instead of the Air Force. He was sent to the US Army Flight School for rotary- wing training at Fort Rucker. From there he was assigned to the 160th Aviation Battalion/Special Forces at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Shortly afterwards, the 160th combined with others to form Task Force 160.
It was in this unit that Tatum played a “spooky” role in the US invasion of Grenada. A photograph of him standing in front of his MD-500 Defender gunship on the beach-head in Grenada, appeared along with a feature story in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Tatum will only say of this episode that he “wasn’t there”, in the same sense that he “wasn’t in Cambodia”.
At that time he was attached to the US Army’s 160th air wing at Fort Campbell. Not only was the Hughes helicopter then not in the Army’s inventory, but the 160th didn’t officially exist. Jim Malone, of the Louisville Courier-Journal, finds this extraordinary. He has documents showing the 160th was stationed at Fort Campbell, even though officials in the Pentagon continue to deny it – as they deny the wing’s role in Grenada. Malone, in a telephone conversation with this writer, advised that the 160th is now stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina – home of the famous Special Forces, the Green Berets. Their mission is to fly “Delta teams” on covert assignments, Malone added.




During 1983, Colby established contact again, advising Tatum he would shortly be contacted by “a man called North”. This, as Tatum was to discover later, was none other than Lt Col. Oliver North – the central architect of America’s Nicaraguan Contra campaign. Besides fighting a covert war, North was also the link-man in much, much dirtier work.
The “Contragate” years teem with well-documented accounts of illicit wholesale gunrunning and dope-smuggling. The exposé series published in Autumn 1996 by the San Jose Mercury-Post, entitled “The Dark Alliance”, openly finger-points at the CIA and the Reagan administration for turning a blind eye to massive cocaine smuggling. Moreover, the series of articles claims that the explosion of “crack cocaine” in Los Angeles resulted entirely from the Contra leaders-cum-dope peddlers who made vast personal fortunes from their activities. Today, the official argument remains that the Contras were “freelancing” without the knowledge or consent of their CIA “handlers” or North’s socalled “Enterprise”. Despite these assertions, mountains of hard evidence point in a different direction. Included in this evidence is an entry from North’s own diary which shows his knowledge of cocaine shipments.
In stark contrast to these denials, Tatum says that North’s “Enterprise” not only set up the cocaine factories and “ran” the Colombian cartels, but was also responsible for masterminding the massive shipments of narcotics into the US. Significantly, he is not alone in making these accusations. A number of those involved in Col. North’s operations have subsequently come forward and spilled the beans. Almost all of these “whistleblowers” have been hounded and imprisoned. Some have died, whilst others have fled. The whole Contra thing, Tatum states, was also being used by an extremely covert group called Pegasus.
During February 1985, Tatum was piloting “Dustoff” (Medevac) flights for the US Army’s 3/498th Medical Company, stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Two flight crews, including Tatum’s, were transferred to Palmerola Air Base, Honduras. Each flight  consisted of a pilot, copilot, medic and crew chief. Once familiarised, they assumed the Medevac mission for Joint Task Force Bravo. Previously, in 1984, Tatum infiltrated the 3/498th on the instructions of Lt Col. Oliver North who had established contact under the code-name “Jake” (North had “control” of the 160th air wing and was also deeply involved with the tactical planning of “black ops” missions in the Grenada invasion).
On 15 February 1985, during a flight to La Ceiba, Honduras, he was instructed to contact his local “handler”, Major Felix Rodríguez – later to prove a major figure in the Iran- Contra investigation. Rodríguez informed Tatum that in addition to his Army “Medevac” duties he was to support covert “Pegasus” missions. These, he was told, would take priority over his other duties. He was also given his “chain of command”: three individuals, any of whom could authorise Pegasus missions.
In addition to Oliver North and Felix Rodríguez, Tatum would henceforward take orders from Amiram Nir, a former Mossad agent and advisor to Vice President Bush. Aviation support for Pegasus missions operated out of Ilopango Air Base, Honduras (home of the CIA proprietary airline Corporate Air Services) plus numerous Contra camps located in the jungles and mountains along the Honduras-Nicaragua border.3 A common feature of all future Pegasus missions was the transport “of large white coolers in and out of the Contra camps”.
On 26 February 1985, Tatum and his crew were instructed to fly two individuals to one of the larger Contra camps on the Honduran border. His flight log lists the names of the two individuals as Bill Cooper and Buzz Sawyer, both of whom worked for Corporate Air Services. Following a meeting between the CIA agents and Contra leaders, Tatum was given a sealed cooler, marked “Vaccine”, weighing approximately 200 pounds, and instructed to deliver it to a USAF C-130 transport plane at La Mesa Airport, Honduras.
Two crew members offloading the cooler accidentally dropped it, breaking the seal.
Inside were over 100 bags of cocaine. Tatum resealed the cooler and later watched as it was transferred aboard the C-130, outward bound for Panama.
On his return to Palmerola Air Base, Honduras, Tatum phoned Col. North to advise him of his discovery. North replied that it was “a trophy of war” and that the “Sandinistas are manufacturing cocaine and selling it to fund the military”. North closed the conversation by saying that “the cocaine was bound for the world courts as evidence” against the Sandinistas.
The whole incident struck Tatum as odd and reminded him strongly of earlier missions dating back to 1983-84 when he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a Special Operations pilot. Regularly he would trans-ship white coolers, marked as “Medical Supplies”, to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. On two occasions he carried similar coolers to Mena Airport, Arkansas. Deliveries of medical coolers to Little Rock AFB were picked up by Dr Dan Lasater – a close confidant of the then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
By now, almost two years later, Tatum had decided to document his discovery to safeguard his “retirement”. Thereafter, he documented all Pegasus flights on the reverse of his flight logs.
This was a difficult time for Tatum, since he had three balls to juggle at the same time.
On the one hand he was flying classified active-duty missions for the US Army; on the other, he was flying CIA missions arranged through Mil. Group A (CIA), located at the embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and thirdly, he was flying Pegasus missions under the control of William Colby, Oliver North and George Bush following his recruitment into Pegasus by Colby in 1986.
Tatum completed numerous missions during his rotation out of Honduras. Picking up and trans-shipping coolers containing cocaine was a regular event. Extraordinarily, this included infiltrating Nicaraguan airspace (Tatum says it was not difficult to infiltrate any country and that “foreign powers” would kill to know how it is done), and landing at Bluefields Air Base with deliveries for placement aboard civilian C-123s and C-130s. This mission was followed by a brief stint in Colombia, where he was assigned to assist the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “War on Drugs”, only to discover the DEA was heavily engaged in narcotics trafficking.


One of the most flamboyant individuals involved in the cocaine trail from Columbia through Honduras to Panama and on into the United States, was Barry Seal. Seal flew an assortment of aircraft, offloading shipments of weapons in South America and picking up deliveries of cocaine for his return flight to the US on behalf of Col. North’s Enterprise.
His primary base of operations was Mena Airport, Arkansas.
A CIA “asset”, Seal was later arrested and became a DEA informer. Prior to his killing in 1986 – allegedly by a Medellín cartel assassination squad in revenge for informing on them – Seal openly boasted he had information that implicated high-level government officials, including then-Vice President Bush, in the Enterprise’s narcotics-trafficking business.
Tatum would soon get to meet Barry Seal and become close friends. Tatum recalls being present during a meeting between Oliver North, Felix Rodríguez, Amiram Nir and General Alvarez from Honduras, when North stated that Vice President Bush was going to have his son Jeb arrange “something out of Columbia”. This conversation focused on Barry Seal’s increasingly notorious activities. When Tatum later heard Seal had died, he immediately understood who was behind the killing. The discussion also made it clear that VP Bush, Governor Clinton and his three respective “handlers” were knee-deep in the cocaine venture and making fistloads of money.
Unknown to all those present, Seal had earlier provided Tatum with a list of names of those high-level government officials deeply involved with or responsible for controlling the narcotics business. Seal called them the “Boss Hogs”. Tatum has kept this list a tightly-held secret until recent weeks. The list cites the surnames only, and is reproduced above, as I received it, complete with misspellings as written. I have appended their full names and titles in brackets.


€ Casey (William Casey, Director Central Intelligence)
€ Clair-George (Clair Elroy George, Head of CIA’s Central American Task Force)
€ Bush (Vice President George Bush)
€ Kissinger (Dr Henry Kissinger, Chairman, Kissinger Associates; former US Secretary of State; former National Security Adviser)
€ Haig (General Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State)
€ Greg (Donald Gregg, former National Security Adviser to VP Bush, Ambassador to Korea and alleged joint “Controller” of Panama’s Manuel Noriega, along with William Casey)
€ Clairage (Duane “Dewey” Clarradge, CIA)
€ Fernandez (Joseph Fernandez, CIA Costa Rica Station Chief)
€ North (Lt Col. Oliver North, National Security Council aide)
€ Singlaub (John Singlaub, CIA covert operator)
€ Colby (William Colby, Director Central Intelligence, 1973-76)
€ Secord (Richard V. Secord, regarded as a “brilliant” CIA black operative)
€ Weld (William Weld, head of Criminal Division, US Department of Justice; instrumental in “blocking” Senate investigations into narcotics, according to testimony of former Senate special investigator, Jack Blum)
€ Rodriguez (Felix Rodríguez, CIA officer with close connection to VP Bush)
€ Peroot (General Peroot, Defense Intelligence Agency)

Most, if not all of these names are readily familiar to Contragate investigators and journalists covering this story. Allegations regarding the involvement of former President George Bush in the cocaine business are by no means new – they abound in plentiful supply. The fact that Bush pardoned a number of his closest advisors, who were facing criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment, late on Christmas Eve 1992, just weeks  before Bill Clinton’s inauguration, left a sour taste in the mouths of many. If prosecuted, they clearly would have fingered the President himself.


But Tatum’s story takes us even further along the dark road of power, greed and corruption. During l986, he had left Honduras and set up a money-laundering business in Watertown, New York State, close to the home base of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. The location was chosen with care. With access to Fort Drum’s telephone lines for secure communications, he was assigned a Cherokee-140 fixed-wing aircraft, used to ship personnel and supplies across the Canadian border under radar cover. His tenure with these companies lasted from 1986 through to 1990. This was a pure Pegasus operation.
It was at Watertown that Tatum was provided with a civilian cover in the form of three construction companies: American National Home Builders, American Constructors and American Homes. Funding was provided by Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican politician and well known as the CIA’s “black money” man. Hyde provided a US$250,000 line of credit with Key Bank, Watertown. Although Tatum was listed as the president in all three companies, in reality all were under the control of Ben Whittaker, a lawyer from Rochester, New York. Whittaker, Tatum says, is closely associated with Tony Wilson of the Wilson family who owned Xerox Corporation. They are extremely wealthy and “friends of the Rothschilds and Rockefellers”. In addition, he was also closely associated with South Eastern US Investment Group (SEUS) – an investment bank in Savannah, Georgia – from 1985 through to 1989. Another proprietary he was involved with was Irving Place Development, a service organisation of Irving Bank and Trust Company. Cocaine proceeds were laundered through these companies by an ingenious use of construction loans.
In response to a question asking why the “drug-related money” was placed in “Arkansas, Colorado and Ohio”, Tatum simply explains that he doesn’t know why, adding that “It was being done before I got there. I assume banking laws and whether or not Bush had people in his pocket in these areas.” He does explain that the primary figure involved in the laundry exercise in Arkansas was “Jack Stephens”. Jackson Stephens, owner of Worthen Bank & Trust Company, is closely aligned with President Bill Clinton. Tatum states that “…Clinton received the cash and divided it up between Stephens and [Dan] Lasater to clean it up. Stephens’ company [Worthen Bank] was used as the guarantor, providing ‘warehouse’ lines of credit.”
Developing this theme in more detail, Tatum explains that the Enterprise was receiving drugs in exchange for the guns they supplied to the Contras. The raw product in the form of coca leaves was supplied by the Colombians and pressed into large cube-shaped bales and then shipped to Nicaragua and Honduras.6 All the “product” was pre-sold and the delivery into the US “guaranteed”.
This eventually resulted in the sale proceeds being pre-paid to Panama, under Noriega’s control. Some of this money was washed through banks and other companies operating in Panama and elsewhere. The rest was sent to Arkansas, Ohio and Colorado. Thereafter, the dirty money was filtered via construction loans with permanent “takeouts” “arranged by banks and mortgage- lenders”. These, in turn, were later sold to Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s – negotiable US Federal Mortgage Securities that are traded globally on a daily basis. Each laundry “cycle” lasted from six months to a year. The result was dirty money transformed into good, clean, US currency.
This system wasn’t arbitrary or accidental. One initial “test-bed” was a small residential mortgage lender named Carl I. Brown (CIB) in Kansas. Others were larger, and still others became national. All were ultimately destined to be purchased by a bank (proprietary) from Japan within a specific time-frame, 1996, as part of ongoing Pegasus plans. Eric Brown, the son of the founder of CIB, was heavily involved in these activities.
Three additional companies were involved, to Tatum’s knowledge: US Homes, Pulte Homes and Richmond Homes. All became very successful, providing “the American dream – as VP Bush put it in a meeting in 1987”.




Tatum has gone into considerable additional detail regarding the role of Pegasus as he knew it. He believes Pegasus was established during the Eisenhower years as a secret group inside the CIA to spy on that agency on behalf of the President. At some point – believed to be after the assassination of President Kennedy – Pegasus went AWOL from direct US Government control and came under the direction of an international Board of Directors which Tatum alleges now includes George Bush and Henry Kissinger.
The directors of Pegasus meet once a year in secret conclave following G7 meetings. The group has “representation” from a number of intelligence agencies throughout the world.
Included are the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) as well as agents from British, Israeli, Turkish and Danish Intelligence plus “others who performed various functions for Pegasus”.7 The mission of Pegasus, Tatum explains, is “to ‘align’ world leaders and financiers to our [US] policies and standards”.
One of Tatum’s Pegasus duties included flying “Archer Teams” (four-man hit teams) in his helicopter to their insertion point.8 He states that Enrique Bermudez was assassinated in 1991 by a Pegasus team, adding he “was shot in the back of the head while walking down the street…from about 150 yards”. Bermudez, known as “Commander Three Eight Zero” was the senior Contra leader. Tatum received two broken ribs when he came under
small-arms fire during the assassination.
Following the Nicaraguan war, Bermudez sought a prominent position in the new government. Spurned by President Chamorro, “Commander 380” tried to pressure George Bush to intercede on his behalf, threatening to expose Bush’s role in the cocaine trafficking enterprise. According to Tatum, Bush ordered his disposal.
Another Pegasus assassination was that of General Gustavo (Dr Gus) Alvarez Martinez, the “cooperating” Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, Honduras. Alvarez was assassinated in 1989, following his demand for a bigger split of the cocaine profits.
Tatum also describes his involvement in the assassination of Amiram Nir, the former Israeli Mossad agent who went under the assumed name of Pat Weber. Nir was scheduled to testify to the Senate subcommittee and it was feared he would reveal the truth. He perished, following the shooting-down of his aircraft with missiles from Tatum’s helicopter.
Other “neutralisations” verge on the bizarre. An individual who must remain nameless for a variety of reasons – but whose name is known to this writer – underwent an experience that is both horrific and chilling. Readers are warned that what follows is not at all pleasant. For the sake of ease, I shall call this individual “Mr X” or, simply, “X”.
Mr X was a leader of one of the largest CIA-backed Contra groups. He recently testified before the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Formerly, X was a senior executive in a South American subsidiary of a leading US soft drinks corporation. During his Senate testimony, he denied any knowledge of CIA involvement in the narcotics trade, adding that condoning such activity would have been foreign to his way of life. Not so, says Tatum. Mr X had been recruited into the CIA by then-Director William Casey, with the assistance of Oliver North.
In 1990, when Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega announced there would be “free elections”, X was ecstatic. He began jostling for position and asked President Bush to ensure he be given a prominent position in the new government – in return for his years of toil at the behest of the CIA and the Enterprise. The pressure came in a form that Bush could not ignore. Failure to help his friend would result in X’s intimate knowledge of Bush’s involvement in the dope trade being made public. His threat left Bush with a sour taste. A Pegasus team was assigned to “neutralise” him in early 1990.
Mr X, Tatum states, “fancied himself a lover of women. Tall, large-breasted blondes were his favourite. It was determined that, if effectively neutralised,could be an asset.
Therefore, it was decided that intimidation would be used to control.”
They chose to use the drug Scopolamine, which also went by the nickname “Burundanga” or “the Voodoo drug”. The drug is extracted from the pods of a flowering shrub that grows in remote regions of South America. In its processed, powdered form, Scopolamine is “void of smell, void of taste”. When properly administered “it causes absolute obedience” without this being “observable by others”. Importantly, the target will not recall any of the events that occurred during the period they were under the spell of the drug.
In outlining these details, Tatum adds that it is important to administer the drug in the correct dosage, for he has known targets to die from too high a dose. Others have “remained under the influence of Burundanga for up to three weeks”. Precise dosage can be achieved by liquid ingestion, the powder being readily soluble. Ingestion via cigarettes is also an optimum method of ingestion. It is fast-acting and takes no more than 20 minutes to work.
Tatum states that X was invited to spend a relaxing weekend at a luxury hotel as a guest of his friend George Bush. His host for the weekend was a trusted 18-year veteran field intelligence officer. The evening started with cocktails and was followed by a fine meal.
“‘Nothing but the best’ were the orders.”
Following the meal, he was ushered into the suite of a “blonde bombshell” supplied by the CIA. Mr X had already ingested a dose of Burundanga during pre-dinner cocktails. X was gallant with the blonde as they both moved into the bedroom where video cameras were already set up in one corner. In short order, the blonde had X standing naked in front of her and began to indulge his desires. All the while, the video cameras whirred.
Slowly stripping off, the “blonde” revealed his manhood in all its glory. Mr X was instructed to reciprocate the favour and perform fellatio. He obliged, his intimate activities recorded at 24 frames a second on videotape.
Tatum says the male prostitute was hired from a bar in New York and killed that same evening.
Two weeks later, X – wholly unaware of the events of that evening – was visited in Nicaragua. He was presented with a copy of the video footage, along with instructions.
Tatum says that X can never allow that video to be seen: “Not only does it reveal his homosexuality, but it also reveals his bestiality and satanic worship rituals.” As frame after frame flicked by, X reportedly wept, forced to watch himself kill his homosexual “lover” and then engage in the most grisly cannabalistic ritual imaginable.
Neutralised, Mr X became a leading member of the Nicaraguan government a few short weeks later.




Since 1985, when he first became aware of the Enterprise drug- smuggling, Tatum began collecting documents, audiotapes and videotapes for his “retirement”. He was acutely aware that most deep-cover agents do not survive long in what is a very dirty game at a high-stakes poker table.
Tatum says that, in 1992, President Bush instructed him to “neutralise” presidential runner Ross Perot, but he refused to do so. Tatum turned over a copy of an incriminating tape to President Bush, explaining that it would not be released – providing that he, his family and Perot were kept safe. He also told the President that copies of the tape had been placed in six different locations worldwide, saying, “if I didn’t contact these capsuleholders by a certain time each year, they are to be sent to the addresses on the packaging”. He closed the conversation by stating that when he originally “placed the packages, I gave explicit instructions that if I asked for them to be sent back to me, they were to send them to the addresses on the packages.” This, Tatum reasoned, would avoid intimidation or torture.




During his 22 years as a deep-cover CIA and DIA operative, Gene “Chip” Tatum saw or participated in a remarkable series of covert operations. Foremost in his mind are the years 1986-92, when he operated for a group he called “Pegasus”. This group operated on behalf of the US and other governments, undertaking tasks that ranged from narcotics smuggling to assassinations.
The name “Pegasus” was, in fact, a ‘cover’ designation used by Tatum to protect himself against possible prosecution. Earlier this year Tatum revealed the true structure of the group and explained why he felt the need to conceal it. Timing was all important. In a message to this writer, Tatum stated, “It has now been well past the five-year statute of limitations which could have come back and haunted me. That date was January 22, 1997. On January 21, 1992 I walked out of the Jupiter Island meeting to which I referred earlier.”
Few individuals, even now, are aware of the significance of Jupiter Island. Located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, just a few miles north of Palm Beach, the island measures a mere half a mile wide and nine miles long. According to authors Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, island residents read like a “Who’s Who” of the Anglo-American establishment. Many have close connections to the intelligence apparatus and not a few are, or have been, members of the notorious Skull and Bones Society, a secretive and influential Masonic lodge formed at Yale law school.1 Interestingly, many of the early residents, including Averell Harriman and Prescott Bush-George Bush’s father-were strong supporters of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party prior to World War II.
Even in recent years, George Bush continued to have unfinished work with Nazis domiciled in South America, Tatum says-especially while the world’s eyes were turned towards Saddam Hussein and Iraq during Desert Storm. That, however, is another story.
Jupiter Island boasts hyper-security. All vehicles are tracked by sensors placed in the roads and every housekeeper, gardener or other non-resident is required by ordinance to be fingerprinted and registered. Residents themselves are carefully screened prior to being permitted to purchase real estate (many purchase by invitation, it is thought) and one of their primary duties as good residents is to perform active ‘surveillance’ to ensure the island remains secure.2 It was here that Tatum met with and discussed sensitive projects with then Vice President and later President Bush, at the residence of his mother, Rose Bush.


The so-called Pegasus group’s organisational structure, as provided by Tatum, demands recounting in detail. The various presidential orders, which led to the formation and operation of the covert activities in which Tatum and others participated, are significant for they constitute a secret government within a government. This is the power that hides behind the open face of democratic government. Some have called this power base “the Octopus”. Activities include high-level narcotics trafficking, illegal transfers of ultrahigh- tech weaponry, money laundering on a massive scale and an odd “hit” or “alignment” to keep wobbly-kneed individuals on the straight and narrow.
It was in 1981, according to Tatum, that “President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive number 3 (NSDD-3) which authorised the Vice President to chair the  Special Situation Group (SSG). The Special Situation Group was a division under the National Security Council (NSC). One entity formed to support the SSG was the Terrorist Incident Working Group (TIWG), established in April 1982 by authority of President Reagan in NSDD-30. This group consisted of representatives of the following: Director of Central Intelligence, Department of Defense (DoD), FBI, NSC staff and others as required.
Tatum explained that, “The purpose of TIWG is to provide SSG with direct operational support. TIWG then recommended to the President that a Terrorism Task Force be formed and chaired by the head of SSG (the Vice President). Reagan approved NSDD- 138 in April 1984, which extended TIWG’s arm and ability to form sub-groups. As a result of NSDD-138 was the formation of the Operations Sub-Group (OSG). The Sub- Group was a select NSC-DoD-CIA-FBI-foreign intelligence agency which operated so as to bypass the regular operations of intelligence/military/law-enforcement agencies. OSG was formed in February 1986.”
Having revealed the framework of the authorising presidential directives necessary for the conduct of these covert operations, Tatum then detailed the nitty-gritty of the OSG: “I was an operative for OSG from April 1986 through January 1992. When I was operating under the authority of the OSG I would report directly to the OSG, not to the CIA or DIA. This ‘secret government’ apparatus, built by Bush from 1981 to 1986, was able to draw upon assets from the CIA, the DoD Special Operations units and the private sector.
Using the private sector clause, Don Gregg, VP Bush’s National Security Advisor, included a representative from British Intelligence and Israeli Intelligence. To date I have called this group ‘Pegasus’ in an attempt not to divulge its true identity until I was on safe ground. Although most of the missions performed by OSG-2 are classified, the existence of the organisation is now declassified.”
Until Tatum forwarded these details, the existence of more than one OSG was unknown. 
In fact, Tatum has now revealed the existence of three OSGs. OSG-1 was headed by Ted Shackley and was “our anti-narcotics group”.4 OSG-2 was the anti-terrorism group and OSG-3 was “our ‘alignment’ group”. Tatum was originally posted to OSG-2 which was commanded by Col. Oliver North. The third group, OSG-3, was commanded by Richard Secord. Following the exposure of Oliver North’s role in Contragate in 1987, North resigned as head of OSG-2 and his spot was taken over by Secord. Tatum moved up to command OSG-3 at the same time.
All three OSGs answered to those individuals who sat on the TIWG. General Colin Powell represented the Department of Defense; William Casey, the CIA; and Donald Gregg, the National Security Council. “FBI guys rotated in and out,” Tatum says. “It was like they couldn’t get anyone,” he concludes. Representing British Intelligence was Sir Colin Figure. Formerly head of MI6, Sir Colin transferred in 1986 to become “Security Coordinator”, one of the top slots at the Cabinet office under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. He retired in 1989. Amiram Nir represented Israeli interests until his assassination by an “Archer” team led by Tatum-at the request of high-level Israeli individuals-in 1988. Any of these six could “call a mission”. In addition, George Bush could do likewise. Of significance, too, was the occasional representation on the TIWG of Lord Chalfont. The British lord was an adviser on “Mid-East affairs” between 1986 and 1990.
From the moment Chip Tatum was recruited to the OSG, he was posted to upstate New York where he established a number of cover businesses. One of these was Cedar Shores Estates, Inc. This was his base of operations throughout the next six years. It may be no more than sheer coincidence that the name of the company is similar to Cedar Holdings, a British company that had a relationship to former British Conservative Party Treasurer, Lord (Alistair) McAlpine. Author Peter Jones, in an unpublished book, looked in some detail at the business activities of this Conservative Party “Grey Eminence” and leading Freemason.7 Of no little interest was the author’s detailed connections of numerous companies that he believed were involved in all manner of dark activities. Interestingly, these included a company called Leisure Circle that has a sinuous connection to Sir John Cuckney, one of the central figures of the Scott Inquiry into arms
sales to Iraq.
Whilst these connections are admittedly tenuous, to say the least, it should be noted that Tatum’s upstate New York operation was also involved in shipping the most sophisticated weapons across the border to Canada. Not least are the known connections between Oliver North’s related gun-running operations that saw dirty money being laundered through the British Channel Islands and the London-based BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International). Money laundering was one of the principal activities of Col. Oliver North.


One operation of which Tatum has knowledge concerns the so-called “Superbills” or “Supernotes” sting. Years earlier, in the late ’60s or early ’70s, the CIA had secretly provided to the Shah of Iran a perfect set of printing plates that could reproduce US$100 bills without blemish. Also provided was an intaglio printing press. This special printing press ensures that the etched plate meets paper with tremendous force, creating the distinctive embossed feel of a genuine banknote. In addition, the Shah was also given the ink and banknote-quality paper, enabling him to produce perfect counterfeit US dollar banknotes. The Shah later fled Iran and left the plates and press behind in his confusion.
The whole caboodle sat in the mint at Tehran, according to some experts. According to Tatum, a deal was arranged in the early to mid-’80s between VP George Bush, Panama’s Manuel Noriega and the Iranian leadership. A sum of US$8 billion
deposited in the Banco Nacional de Panama on behalf of Colombian cocaine king Pablo Escobar was “lent” to George Bush. Of this, US$4 billion was shipped by plane to Iran where it was exchanged at a ratio of one good bill for two counterfeit bills. On the return trip, the 707 aircraft’s cargo container carried two shrink-wrapped pallets containing $4 billion each. The 707 arrived at Howard/Albrook Air Force Base in Panama where the pallets were offloaded under armed guard of the Panamanian military. The counterfeit notes were re-deposited into Escobar’s account at the Panama central bank. Under no circumstances could the counterfeit bills be permitted to leave the bank vault-for fear of
devaluing the US currency with forged notes-and active steps would later be taken to ensure this.
The other half of Escobar’s “good” money was placed into the hands of Nana DeBusia, the grandson of Guyana’s first democratic leader. DeBusia was chosen by the CIA’s William Casey to launder the massive sum into numerous bank accounts under the joint signatures of VP George Bush and Director Casey.
The next leg of the operation was to retrieve the $4 billion exchanged with the Iranians for the Superbills. This was facilitated by the supply of military equipment, arms, ammunition and replacement parts for weapons systems. This part of the deal was arranged by Col. Oliver North on behalf of the CIA’s William Casey.
The results of these complex manoeuvres were twofold. On the one hand the CIA acquired $4 billion via the arms sales, for use in future black operations, without the need to rely on congressional oversight or authority. If later caught, Tatum says “…the CIA can report the source of funds as being from an arms transaction with Iran”. Some of these funds were then used to support the Contras, whilst the rest disappeared down the ultrablack hole of the Company’s covert finances.
Meanwhile, Nana DeBusia had begun laundering the remaining $4 billion through various banks, including the Vatican Bank.9 For his trouble, DeBusia was entitled to take a commission amounting to $200 million. The remaining $3.8 billion was then secreted in private, numbered accounts around the globe and controlled by George Bush and William Casey.
The operation was complete apart from some necessary mopping-up which occurred over the following years:

1)  In 1989, Pablo Escobar was targeted by an intensive US-Colombian “War on Drugs” campaign. He fled into hiding, in fear of his life. Eventually, in 1993, he was tracked down and killed in a police shoot-out. A British TV documentary revealed that the “Cocaine King” was gunned down while attempting to escape and was probably unarmed. The campaign waged against Escobar ensured he could not withdraw the $8 billion in Superbills. Following his death, the quantity and quality of cocaine shipments from Colombia immediately increased manifoldly, giving lie to the “War on Drugs”.
2) Also during 1989, Panama’s General Noriega was captured in the US invasion of Panama. Noriega was later convicted and placed in US federal prison under constant guard to ensure his silence.
3) Penultimately, Nana DeBusia was indicted on 32 counts including bank fraud and thereby effectively silenced.
4) Earlier, in 1987, DCI William Casey died of a brain tumour-just days before he would have been required to attend the Senate hearings into the Contragate affair.

According to Tatum, only one figure emerged unscathed: George Bush, who alone retained control of $3.8 billion in laundered funds. Obviously, the CIA still retained control over the balance of their $4 billion share of the ‘sting’ operation.
It is of considerable significance that this operation has been corroborated by another source whose credibility is not in question. This individual was present in Tehran during many of these events, and was later posted to another sensitive location in this connection. Moreover, it has additionally been revealed that Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) was heavily involved in the Superbills sting. That BNL was an intrinsic part of Oliver North’s so-called “Enterprise”-in reality, the OSGs of the Terrorist Incident Working Group-is beyond doubt.
However, the question remains: What did George Bush intend to do with his ‘black’ $3.8 billion? What was the ultimate purpose of the operation? Perhaps some of the money was to be used to grease palms and otherwise finance Bush’s bid for the presidency following the completion of President Reagan’s second term. Maybe it was used to finance other lucrative projects. Perhaps it was to be used to inject financial muscle into another, grander scheme, of which Tatum has recently spoken, involving George Bush’s “scope and mission” paper for a New World Order.
A copy of the “scoping” paper supplied to Tatum by George Bush outlines the formation of a Corporation whose purpose is to “…provide a central network of information, analysts and strategists on an international basis in pursuit of world order and economic stability”. The “scope” of the Corporation involves four features:
1) Centralisation of informational services;
2) Analysis of data by region-specific analysts;
3) Provide recommendations based upon analysts’ reports by international experts;
4) Provide international master plan for world growth and economic stability.

The Corporation is to be privately owned with a board of directors “consisting of twelve members, elected annually by the shareholders”. In addition there are to be five departments: “Data Resources; Political Management; Economic Manage-ment; Military Management; Environmental Management”.


But it is in the realm of narcotics trafficking that Tatum is most vociferous. Part 1 of this article recounted the names of high-level US individuals, given to Tatum by Barry Adler Seal before he was killed in 1986. Seal called this the “Boss Hogs” List and it included senior individuals in 11 different countries who, Seal claimed, controlled the global narcotics network. The complete list is reprinted verbatim (including spelling mistakes), and in the manner in which it was written by Tatum on the reverse of a flight log:



Salinas brothers

Santa Cruz

Nora (a woman)

(P. Ben or Guatamalian [sic.] arms dealer for Israel)


Prince B [Tatum believes this to be Prince Bandar]


Noriega & his brother

Clair George

Edwards (Barry’s buddy)
Marcellas family
Gov. in pocket


In a very real sense, Chip Tatum’s story has now gone full circle. In March 1996, Tatum wrote to former Director of Central Intelligence, William Colby. Readers will recall that it was Colby who originally recruited Tatum into the CIA in 1971 and set him on his career as a covert intelligence operator. Since that time, Tatum developed a fondness for the super-spook, and Colby, in turn, played the role of mentor. In his letter, Tatum asked Colby to write a foreword for his book, Operation Red Rock, which he had completed just two months earlier. But there was another purpose in writing to the former DCI.
Four years earlier, when Tatum resigned his OSG command, he had volunteered to plead guilty on a felony charge in order to discredit himself. This was part of Tatum’s strategy of survival, as he was aware that one didn’t resign this particular team and remain alive for long. The fact that he had collected a body of evidence (including video and audio tapes and other related documentation) as ‘life insurance’, gave muscle to his negotiation.
At that time he had not planned to reveal any of the details that he has now provided. In the event, his offer was taken up and he served a prison sentence of just over one year.
That is where matters should have ended.
However, having served his sentence-thus complying with his part of the agreement-both Tatum and his wife, Nancy, were subsequently arrested and charged with another misdemeanour. Tatum got angry. His letter to Colby stated: “I have always kept my word  with you. I told you that I would discredit myself. I don’t need your help to accomplish this. But to charge Nancy with a crime, and expect me to allow this, is beyond my comprehension.” He angrily continued: “I know that North and Rodríguez are the fuel for this, but haven’t you warned them that I wouldn’t sit still for this?” He then added: “I do not blame you for this; I am disappointed that you have allowed the ‘Pond Scum’ to control you!”
There then followed a warning: “The second book that I have already started will contain my movements from 1980 through today. I will not only write about the missions but about the NWO [New World Order] timetable and planned events including a chronology.” Ominously he added: “And I will name names. You must detach yourself from these people!”
Tatum then continued by outlining how he would enter evidence for his forthcoming trial and warning that if disallowed for reasons of classification, then “a Special Prosecutor will be required to investigate the information, and the videotape tells no lies.” He added: “I also had stills and an audio clip of a meeting added to the video. Out of respect for you I have kept your name out to this point, but if you don’t separate yourself from these terrorists I will have no choice but to reveal your involvement also. Either way, the group will be exposed-by the media or by the investigating committee. Either way, they’re out of gas!” Tatum closed the letter by saying: “Mr Colby-you’ve done too much for your
country to be disgraced in the manner that these men will be.”
Less than two months later, the former DCI was reported missing. By Monday 6 May 1996, Colby’s body was found. It was later reported that Colby died following a “canoeing” accident on the Wicomico River, Maryland. Tatum and many others (including this writer) doubt this. Throughout his life, Colby had an all-abiding fear of water. It would have been entirely out of character for him to step voluntarily into a boat, let alone a canoe.
Despite this, Colby’s death officially remains an accident. This has come as no special surprise to Tatum, who recently stated to this writer: “I knew the OSG were bulletproof when one of our targets, a 25-year-old, was reported to have died of a heart attack. His name was Al-Jarrah.” That, however, is another story.


At 3 pm on Friday 4 April 1997-shortly after publication of Part 1 of this article-Chip Tatum was roused from a mid-afternoon snooze and told to report to the warden of his prison. He was informed that he was being released-less than midway through his 27- month sentence-with immediate effect, following an appellate court decision that found his conviction by Judge Adams to be illegal.
The Tatums are now freely enjoying together the sunshine and cajun cooking of Florida, as Chip turns his attention to beginning a new career-his first real job-hunting in 26 years.
“Spy stuff” will not form part of his job-search efforts. Meanwhile, he has written and published his Chronicles that detail many of his allegations.



Additional standing members were the Department of State and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). NSDD-30 was classified “Secret”. Now partly declassified, the redacted sections nominated NSC staffer Col. Oliver North
responsibility for “antiterrorist operations”. This included so-called “active measures” to “deter or pre-empt terrorist attack”, and established the administrative framework for “CIA projects aimed at killing leaders of radical Islamic organizations”. As such, it was an illegal presidential directive. My thanks to Steve Aftergood of the Federation of  American Scientists, Washington, DC, for providing research extracts of these and other NSDDs drawn from Christopher Simpson’s book, National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations (Westview Press, San Francisco).

Shackley’s involvement in the narcotics industry is legion. Not least, Col Bo Gritz-the most highly decorated Special Forces officer in history-has spoken of his encounter with the Burmese warlord Khun Sa. Housed in the centre of the “Golden Triangle”, Khun Sa is one of the world’s leading exporters of raw opium. In an interview captured on camera, the warlord stated that his primary contact in the heroin business was the CIA’s very own Ted Shackley. Shackley worked closely with Mafia chief Santos Trafficante, according to Khun Sa.

Tatum has stated that it was routine for all the OSG operatives to establish their own businesses as “covers”. Funding was provided as a line of credit with the Key Bank of Central New York, Watertown, New York state, by Republican Harry Hyde. The company was formed by attorney Ben Whittaker. Legal representation was through O’Hara and Crough in Syracuse, NY. Tatum also operated through a number of other similar “fronts”. These included Progressive Structures, Inc., Irving Place Capital & Development, and American National Home Builders.

Tatum says DeBusia laundered this sum through banks in London. Coincidences abound in this story and they may be no more than coincidences. However, I think it is worth citing Gerald James, former Chairman of Astra Plc and one of the principal figures in the Scott affair and arms sales to Iraq. In his book, In the Public Interest (Warner Books, 1996), Gerald James has reproduced an internal company memorandum referring to the massive British-Saudi Al Yamamah arms deal in which a sum of US$4 billion is mentioned in connection with a bribe to Saudi Prince Bandar, a nephew of King Fahd.
The memorandum stated: “This 4 bil US was mentioned in connection with M. Thatcher’s son.” Interestingly, the sum of $3.8 billion is mentioned in the Kerry Report that looked into the Iran-Contra affair.

One of the principal prosecution witnesses against General Noriega was Gabriel Tabóada. Arguably, without Tabóada’s testimony (he was regarded as the “star witness”) the prosecution case against Noriega may well have failed. Tatum has provided this writer with a number of private letters and other documents written by Tobóada. These clearly show that Tobóada was “coached” by the prosecution in what to say and, more significantly, what not to say. Tobóada’s correspondence makes it clear he was aware that the prosecution case against Noriega was severely flawed by perjury-a fact known to the prosecution team. Today, Tobóada lives in fear of his life-a state of affairs that the US
Department of Justice dismisses out of hand.

Following the intervention of the CIA, DeBusia was acquitted on all counts.
Effectively discredited, he will continue to maintain silence.


 Tatum has provided me with a variety of documents covering his military and CIA career from 1971 through 1986 when he was discharged from the US Army. His discharge papers outline a series of military decorations and campaign medals including “The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device” and the “Vietnam Service Medal” (there are many others). Appended to these papers is a medical report, signed by Major Charlie Talbert, which outlines Tatum’s various injuries gained during his military career&emdash;and includes notations describing his capture and torture in South-East Asia. Major Talbert reports that these injuries were treated in June 1972, and adds that Tatum’s medical records are incomplete “as details on this are classified”. I queried Tatum on the date, which should have been recorded as 1971. He responded, saying it was definitely 1971 and that the Army doctor only had “Secret” security clearance
whereas Tatum had “Top Secret” clearance (confirmed in other military records, dated 1972, in my possession). Tatum avers that this discrepancy was the result of a typographical mistake on the part of the Army doctor.
Moreover, Tatum’s covert role in the CIA is additionally confirmed by other military papers provided to me. In one dated 1974, Tatum’s assignment orders were “cut” by a Lt General USAF (name redacted) who was Chief Military Intelligence Adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Other corroborative documents in my possession include a US Army payslip dated 1985;
a copy of an “Inmate Request Form” on the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, showing Tatum was being detained on a “treason” charge; assignment papers to the 3/498th Medac at Fort Campbell, dated 12 April 1984; copies of media news articles describing the attack on Phnom Penh; a news report and photograph of Tatum in Grenada; a Special Forces USA MEDDAC Mission Request Form dated 6 April 1985, detailing Barry Seal’s “Boss Hogs” listing; plus hard copies of Tatum’s flight logs during his Honduras “rotation”, additionally supported by photographs of the original flight logs.
I also have a copy of a TWIX message from the Commander US Forces, Honduras (Task Force Bravo), stating to his superiors that “It has become increasingly evident during the past six weeks that Medevac A/C, in direct support of JTFs, in some cases are being utilised for other than Medevac requirements and are being controlled by other than Medevac Officials.” Tatum says he obtained a copy of this message from his Pegasus controller.
I also have a copy of Tatum’s full book manuscript, “Operation Red Rock”, together with a letter he sent to William Colby, dated 6 March 1996, which threaten: “I will not only write about the missions but about the NWO timetable and planned events, including a chronology. And I will name names.”
I have other documents that I am not permitted to reveal but which corroborate missions in South America.

Tatum says that, through 1985, “aviation support” for Pegasus was primarily out of Palmerola Air Base, Honduras. Ilopango Air Base is in El Salvador and it had “operational” support.

Tatum adds that he had limited flights to Bluefields Air Base, Nicaragua, but “primarily the military aircraft used were USAF C-141s and C-130s at Palmerola, La Mesa and San Lorenzo, Honduras. At San Lorenzo there were also civilian aircraft, including civilian C-123s.”

I phoned and spoke with Ron Lard, an official at the DEA HQ, Virginia, to ask about the properties of Burundanga. He was unable to provide any information. However, through other sources I can confirm that this drug is well known to cause both amnesia and a zombie-like trance in which the target follows all orders. Dr Camilo Uribe, head of Bogotá’s toxicology clinic, says, “it’s like chemical hypnotism”. See Wall Street Journal, 3 July 1995.


About the Author:

Born in England, David Guyatt is a freelance investigative journalist whose former career in stock broking and banking gave him the background that inspired his research into the shady world of international weapons financing, drug-running and money laundering. His current research interests are focused on military/intelligence mind-control programs and non-lethal weapons systems, as well as the hidden influence of elitist groups around the globe.



I am a neo expressionist.

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Revealed: Why Indian Farmers Suicide





1.   A Fable for Tomorrow


THERE WAS ONCE a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines. Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the fall mornings.

Along the roads, laurel, viburnum and alder, great ferns and wildflowers delighted the traveler’s eye through much of the year. Even in winter the roadsides were places of beauty, where countless birds came to feed on the berries and on the seed heads of the dried weeds rising above the snow. The countryside was, in fact, famous for the abundance and variety of its bird life, and when the flood of migrants was pouring through in spring and fall people traveled from great distances to observe them. Others came to fish the streams, which flowed clear and cold out of the hills and contained shady pools where trout lay. So it had been from the days many years ago when the first settlers raised their houses, sank their wells, and built their barns.

Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community: mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens; the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was a shadow of death. The farmers spoke of much illness among their families. In the town the doctors had become more and more puzzled by new kinds of sickness appearing among their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among adults but even among children, who would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within a few hours.

There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example—where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

On the farms the hens brooded, but no chicks hatched. The farmers complained that they were unable to raise any pigs—the litters were small and the young survived only a few days. The apple trees were coming into bloom but no bees droned among the blossoms, so there was no pollination and there would be no fruit.

The roadsides, once so attractive, were now lined with browned and withered vegetation as though swept by fire. These, too, were silent, deserted by all living things. Even the streams were now lifeless. Anglers no longer visited them, for all the fish had died.

In the gutters under the eaves and between the shingles of the roofs, a white granular powder still showed a few patches; some weeks before it had fallen like snow upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and streams.

No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.

.    .    .

This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterparts in America or elsewhere in the world. I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe. Yet every one of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have already suffered a substantial number of them. A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.

What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America? This book is an attempt to explain.


2.   The Obligation to Endure


THE HISTORY OF LIFE on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings. To a large extent, the physical form and the habits of the earth’s vegetation and its animal life have been molded by the environment. Considering the whole span of earthly time, the opposite effect, in which life actually modifies its surroundings, has been relatively slight. Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species—man—acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.

During the past quarter century this power has not only increased to one of disturbing magnitude but it has changed in character. The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world—the very nature of its life. Strontium 90, released through nuclear explosions into the air, comes to earth in rain or drifts down as fallout, lodges in soil, enters into the grass or corn or wheat grown there, and in time takes up its abode in the bones of a human being, there to remain until his death. Similarly, chemicals sprayed on croplands or forests or gardens lie long in soil, entering into living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death. Or they pass mysteriously by underground streams until they emerge and, through the alchemy of air and sunlight, combine into new forms that kill vegetation, sicken cattle, and work unknown harm on those who drink from once pure wells. As Albert Schweitzer has said, ‘Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation.’

It took hundreds of millions of years to produce the life that now inhabits the earth—eons of time in which that developing and evolving and diversifying life reached a state of adjustment and balance with its surroundings. The environment, rigorously shaping and directing the life it supported, contained elements that were hostile as well as supporting. Certain rocks gave out dangerous radiation; even within the light of the sun, from which all life draws its energy, there were short-wave radiations with power to injure. Given time—time not in years but in millennia—life adjusts, and a balance has been reached. For time is the essential ingredient; but in the modern world there is no time.

The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature. Radiation is no longer merely the background radiation of rocks, the

bombardment of cosmic rays, the ultraviolet of the sun that have existed before there was any life on earth; radiation is now the unnatural creation of man’s tampering with the atom. The chemicals to which life is asked to make its adjustment are no longer merely the calcium and silica and copper and all the rest of the minerals washed out of the rocks and carried in rivers to the sea; they are the synthetic creations of man’s inventive mind, brewed in his laboratories, and having no counterparts in nature.

To adjust to these chemicals would require time on the scale that is nature’s; it would require not merely the years of a man’s life but the life of generations. And even this, were it by some miracle possible, would be futile, for the new chemicals come from our laboratories in an endless stream; almost five hundred annually find their way into actual use in the United States alone. The figure is staggering and its implications are not easily grasped—500 new chemicals to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience.

Among them are many that are used in man’s war against nature. Since the mid-1940s over 200 basic chemicals have been created for use in killing insects, weeds, rodents, and other organisms described in the modern vernacular as ‘pests’; and they are sold under several thousand different brand names.

These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes— nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil—all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides’, but ‘biocides’.

The whole process of spraying seems caught up in an endless spiral. Since DDT was released for civilian use, a process of escalation has been going on in which ever more toxic materials must be found. This has happened because insects, in a triumphant vindication of Darwin’s principle of the survival of the fittest, have evolved super races immune to the particular insecticide used, hence a deadlier one has always to be developed—and then a deadlier one than that. It has happened also because, for reasons to be described later, destructive insects often undergo a ‘flareback’, or resurgence, after spraying, in numbers greater than before. Thus the chemical war is never won, and all life is caught in its violent crossfire.

Along with the possibility of the extinction of mankind by nuclear war, the central problem of our age has therefore become the contamination of man’s total environment with such substances of incredible potential for harm—substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals and even penetrate the germ cells to shatter or alter the very material of heredity upon which the shape of the future depends.

Some would-be architects of our future look toward a time when it will be possible to alter the human germ plasm by design. But we may easily be doing so now by inadvertence, for many chemicals, like radiation, bring about gene mutations. It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray.

All this has been risked—for what? Future historians may well be amazed by our distorted sense of proportion. How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?

Yet this is precisely what we have done. We have done it, moreover, for reasons that collapse the moment we examine them. We are told that the enormous and expanding use of pesticides is necessary to maintain farm production. Yet is our real problem not one of overproduction? Our farms, despite measures to remove acreages from production and to pay farmers not to produce, have yielded such a staggering excess of crops that the American taxpayer in 1962 is paying out more than one billion dollars a year as the total carrying cost of the surplus-food storage program. And is the situation helped when one branch of the Agriculture Department tries to reduce production while another states, as it did in 1958, ‘It is believed generally that reduction of crop acreages under provisions of the Soil Bank will stimulate interest in use of chemicals to obtain maximum production on the land retained in crops.’

All this is not to say there is no insect problem and no need of control. I am saying, rather, that control must be geared to realities, not to mythical situations, and that the methods employed must be such that they do not destroy us along with the insects.

.    .    .

The problem whose attempted solution has brought such a train of disaster in its wake is an accompaniment of our modern way of life. Long before the age of man, insects inhabited the earth—a group of extraordinarily varied and adaptable beings. Over the course of time since man’s advent, a small percentage of the more than half a million species of insects have come into conflict with human welfare in two principal ways: as competitors for the food supply and as carriers of human disease.

Disease-carrying insects become important where human beings are crowded together, especially under conditions where sanitation is poor, as in time of natural disaster or war or in situations of extreme poverty and deprivation. Then control of some sort becomes necessary. It is a sobering fact, however, as we shall presently see, that the method of massive chemical control has had only limited success, and also threatens to worsen the very conditions it is intended to curb.

Under primitive agricultural conditions the farmer had few insect problems. These arose with the intensification of agriculture—the devotion of immense acreages to a single crop. Such a system set the stage for explosive increases in specific insect populations. Single-crop farming does not take advantage of the principles by which nature works; it is agriculture as an engineer might conceive it to be. Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds. One important natural check is a limit on the amount of suitable habitat for each species. Obviously then, an insect that lives on wheat can build up its population to much higher levels on a farm devoted to wheat than on one in which wheat is intermingled with other crops to which the insect is not adapted.

The same thing happens in other situations. A generation or more ago, the towns of large areas of the United States lined their streets with the noble elm tree. Now the beauty they hopefully created is threatened with complete destruction as disease sweeps through the elms, carried by a beetle that would have only limited chance to build up large populations and to spread from tree to tree if the elms were only occasional trees in a richly diversified planting.

Another factor in the modern insect problem is one that must be viewed against a background of geologic and human history: the spreading of thousands of different kinds of organisms from their native homes to invade new territories. This worldwide migration has been studied and graphically described by the British ecologist Charles Elton in his recent book The Ecology of Invasions. During the Cretaceous Period, some hundred million years ago, flooding seas cut many land bridges between continents and living things found themselves confined in what Elton calls ‘colossal separate nature reserves’. There, isolated from others of their kind, they developed many new species. When some of the land masses were joined again, about 15 million years ago, these species began to move out into new territories—a movement that is not only still in progress but is now receiving considerable assistance from man.

The importation of plants is the primary agent in the modern spread of species, for animals have almost invariably gone along with the plants, quarantine being a comparatively recent and not completely effective innovation. The United States Office of Plant Introduction alone has introduced almost 200,000 species and varieties of plants from all over the world. Nearly half of the 180 or so major insect enemies of plants in the United States are accidental imports from abroad, and most of them have come as hitchhikers on plants.

In new territory, out of reach of the restraining hand of the natural enemies that kept down its numbers in its native land, an invading plant or animal is able to become enormously abundant. Thus it is no accident that our most troublesome insects are introduced species.

These invasions, both the naturally occurring and those dependent on human assistance, are likely to continue indefinitely. Quarantine and massive chemical campaigns are only extremely expensive ways of buying time. We are faced, according to Dr. Elton, ‘with a life-and-death need not just to find new technological means of suppressing this plant or that animal’; instead we need the basic knowledge of animal populations and their relations to their surroundings that will ‘promote an even balance and damp down the explosive power of outbreaks and new invasions.’

Much of the necessary knowledge is now available but we do not use it. We train ecologists in our universities and even employ them in our governmental agencies but we seldom take their advice. We allow the chemical death rain to fall as though there were no alternative, whereas in fact there are many, and our ingenuity could soon discover many more if given opportunity.

Have we fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good? Such thinking, in the words of the ecologist Paul Shepard, ‘idealizes life with only its head out of water, inches above the limits of toleration of the corruption of its own environment…Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?’

Yet such a world is pressed upon us. The crusade to create a chemically sterile, insect-free world seems to have engendered a fanatic zeal on the part of many specialists and most of the so-called control agencies. On every hand there is evidence that those engaged in spraying operations exercise a ruthless power. ‘The regulatory entomologists…function as prosecutor, judge and jury, tax assessor and collector and sheriff to enforce their own orders,’ said Connecticut entomologist Neely Turner. The most flagrant abuses go unchecked in both state and federal agencies.

It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge. If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.

I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself. Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life.

There is still very limited awareness of the nature of the threat. This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits. It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand, ‘The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.’



3.   Elixirs of Death


FOR THE FIRST TIME in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death. In the less than two decades of their use, the synthetic pesticides have been so thoroughly distributed throughout the animate and inanimate world that they occur virtually everywhere. They have been recovered from most of the major river systems and even from streams of groundwater flowing unseen through the earth. Residues of these chemicals linger in soil to which they may have been applied a dozen years before. They have entered and lodged in the bodies of fish, birds, reptiles, and domestic and wild animals so universally that scientists carrying on animal experiments find it almost impossible to locate subjects free from such contamination. They have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in soil, in the eggs of birds—and in man himself. For these chemicals are now stored in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings, regardless of age. They occur in the mother’s milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child.

All this has come about because of the sudden rise and prodigious growth of an industry for the production of manmade or synthetic chemicals with insecticidal properties. This industry is a child of the Second World War. In the course of developing agents of chemical warfare, some of the chemicals created in the laboratory were found to be lethal to insects. The discovery did not come by chance: insects were widely used to test chemicals as agents of death for man.

The result has been a seemingly endless stream of synthetic insecticides. In being man-made—by ingenious laboratory manipulation of the molecules, substituting atoms, altering their arrangement—they differ sharply from the simpler insecticides of prewar days. These were derived from naturally occurring minerals and plant products—compounds of arsenic, copper, , manganese, zinc, and other minerals, pyrethrum from the dried flowers of chrysanthemums, nicotine sulphate from some of the relatives of tobacco, and rotenone from leguminous plants of the East Indies.

What sets the new synthetic insecticides apart is their enormous biological potency. They have immense power not merely to poison but to enter into the most vital processes of the body and change them in sinister and often deadly ways. Thus, as we shall see, they destroy the very enzymes whose function is to protect the body from harm, they block the oxidation processes from which the body receives its energy, they prevent the normal functioning of various organs, and they may initiate in certain cells the slow and irreversible change that leads to malignancy.

Yet new and more deadly chemicals are added to the list each year and new uses are devised so that contact with these materials has become practically worldwide. The production of synthetic pesticides in the United States soared from 124,259,000 pounds in 1947 to 637,666,000 pounds in 1960—more than a fivefold increase. The wholesale value of these products was well over a quarter of a billion dollars. But in the plans and hopes of the industry this enormous production is only a beginning.

A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals—eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones—we had better know something about their nature and their power.

Although the Second World War marked a turning away from inorganic chemicals as pesticides into the wonder world of the carbon molecule, a few of the old materials persist. Chief among these is arsenic, which is still the basic ingredient in a variety of weed and insect killers. Arsenic is a highly toxic mineral occurring widely in association with the ores of various metals, and in very small amounts in volcanoes, in the sea, and in spring water. Its relations to man are varied and historic. Since many of its compounds are tasteless, it has been a favorite agent of homicide from long before the time of the Borgias to the present. Arsenic is present in English chimney soot and along with certain aromatic hydrocarbons is considered responsible for the carcinogenic (or cancer-causing) action of the soot, which was recognized nearly two centuries ago by an English physician. Epidemics of chronic arsenical poisoning involving whole populations over long periods are on record. Arsenic-contaminated environments have also caused sickness and death among horses, cows, goats, pigs, deer, fishes, and bees; despite this record arsenical sprays and dusts are widely used. In the arsenic-sprayed cotton country of southern United States beekeeping as an industry has nearly died out. Farmers using arsenic dusts over long periods have been afflicted with chronic arsenic poisoning, livestock have been poisoned by crop sprays or weed killers containing arsenic. Drifting arsenic dusts from blueberry lands have spread over neighboring farms, contaminating streams, fatally poisoning bees and cows, and causing human illness. ‘It is scarcely possible…to handle arsenicals with more utter disregard of the general health than that which has been practiced in our country in recent years,’ said Dr. W. C. Hueper, of the National Cancer Institute, an authority on environmental cancer. ‘Anyone who has watched the dusters and sprayers of arsenical insecticides at work must have been impressed by the almost supreme carelessness with which the poisonous substances are dispensed.’

.    .    .

Modern insecticides are still more deadly. The vast majority fall into one of two large groups of chemicals. One, represented by DDT, is known as the ‘chlorinated hydrocarbons. The other group consists of the organic phosphorus insecticides, and is represented by the reasonably familiar malathion and parathion. All have one thing in common. As mentioned above, they are built on a basis of carbon atoms, which are also the indispensable building blocks of the living world, and thus classed as ‘organic’. To understand them, we must see of what they are made, and how, although linked with the basic chemistry of all life, they lend themselves to the modifications which make them agents of death.

The basic element, carbon, is one whose atoms have an almost infinite capacity for uniting with each other in chains and rings and various other configurations, and for becoming linked with atoms of other substances. Indeed, the incredible diversity of living creatures from bacteria to the great blue whale is largely due to this capacity of carbon. The complex protein molecule has the carbon atom as its basis, as have molecules of fat, carbohydrates, enzymes, and vitamins. So, too, have enormous numbers of nonliving things, for carbon is not necessarily a symbol of life.

Some organic compounds are simply combinations of carbon and hydrogen. The simplest of these is methane, or marsh gas, formed in nature by the bacterial decomposition of organic matter under water. Mixed with air in proper proportions, methane becomes the dreaded ‘fire damp’ of coal mines. Its structure is beautifully simple, consisting of one carbon atom to which four hydrogen atoms have become attached:

Chemists have discovered that it is possible to detach one or all of the hydrogen atoms and substitute other elements. For example, by substituting one atom of chlorine for one of hydrogen we produce methyl chloride:

Take away three hydrogen atoms and substitute chlorine and we have the anesthetic chloroform:

Substitute chlorine atoms for all of the hydrogen atoms and the result is carbon tetrachloride, the familiar cleaning fluid:

In the simplest possible terms, these changes rung upon the basic molecule of methane illustrate what a chlorinated hydrocarbon is. But this illustration gives little hint of the true complexity of the chemical world of the hydrocarbons, or of the manipulations by which the organic chemist creates his infinitely varied materials. For instead of the simple methane molecule with its single carbon atom, he may work with hydrocarbon molecules consisting of many carbon atoms, arranged in rings or chains, with side chains or branches, holding to themselves with chemical bonds not merely simple atoms of hydrogen or chlorine but also a wide variety of chemical groups. By seemingly slight changes the whole character of the substance is changed; for example, not only what is attached but the place of attachment to the carbon atom is highly important. Such ingenious manipulations have produced a battery of poisons of truly extraordinary power.

.    .    .

DDT (short for dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane) was first synthesized by a German chemist in 1874, but its properties as an insecticide were not discovered until 1939. Almost immediately DDT was hailed as a means of stamping out insectborne disease and winning the farmers’ war against crop destroyers overnight. The discoverer, Paul Müller of Switzerland, won the Nobel Prize.

DDT is now so universally used that in most minds the product takes on the harmless aspect of the familiar. Perhaps the myth of the harmlessness of DDT rests on the fact that one of its first uses was the wartime dusting of many thousands of soldiers, refugees, and prisoners, to combat lice. It is widely believed that since so many people came into extremely intimate contact with DDT and suffered no immediate ill effects the chemical must certainly be innocent of harm. This understandable misconception arises from the fact that—unlike other chlorinated hydrocarbons—DDT in powder form is not readily absorbed through the skin. Dissolved in oil, as it usually is, DDT is definitely toxic. If swallowed, it is absorbed slowly through the digestive tract; it may also be absorbed through the lungs. Once it has entered the body it is stored largely in organs rich in fatty substances (because DDT itself is fat-soluble) such as the adrenals, testes, or thyroid. Relatively large amounts are deposited in the liver, kidneys, and the fat of the large, protective mesenteries that enfold the intestines.

This storage of DDT begins with the smallest conceivable intake of the chemical (which is present as residues on most foodstuffs) and continues until quite high levels are reached. The fatty storage depots act as biological magnifiers, so that an intake of as little as  of 1 part per million in the diet results in storage of about 10 to 15 parts per million, an increase of one hundredfold or more. These terms of reference, so commonplace to the chemist or the pharmacologist, are unfamiliar to most of us. One part in a million sounds like a very small amount—and so it is. But such substances are so potent that a minute quantity can bring about vast changes in the body. In animal experiments, 3 parts per million has been found to inhibit an essential enzyme in heart muscle; only 5 parts per million has brought about necrosis or disintegration of liver cells; only 2.5 parts per million of the closely related chemicals dieldrin and chlordane did the same.

This is really not surprising. In the normal chemistry of the human body there is just such a disparity between cause and effect. For example, a quantity of iodine as small as two ten-thousandths of a gram spells the difference between health and disease. Because these small amounts of pesticides are cumulatively stored and only slowly excreted, the threat of chronic poisoning and degenerative changes of the liver and other organs is very real.

Scientists do not agree upon how much DDT can be stored in the human body. Dr. Arnold Lehman, who is the chief pharmacologist of the Food and Drug Administration, says there is neither a floor below which DDT is not absorbed nor a ceiling beyond which absorption and storage ceases. On the other hand, Dr. Wayland Hayes of the United States Public Health Service contends that in every individual a point of equilibrium is reached, and that DDT in excess of this amount is excreted. For practical purposes it is not particularly important which of these men is right. Storage in human beings has been well investigated, and we know that the average person is storing potentially harmful amounts. According to various studies, individuals with no known exposure (except the inevitable dietary one) store an average of 5.3 parts per million to 7.4 parts per million; agricultural workers 17.1 parts per million; and workers in insecticide plants as high as 648 parts per million! So the range of proven storage is quite wide and, what is even more to the point, the minimum figures are above the level at which damage to the liver and other organs or tissues may begin.

One of the most sinister features of DDT and related chemicals is the way they are passed on from one organism to another through all the links of the food chains. For example, fields of alfalfa are dusted with DDT; meal is later prepared from the alfalfa and fed to hens; the hens lay eggs which contain DDT. Or the hay, containing residues of 7 to 8 parts per million, may be fed to cows. The DDT will turn up in the milk in the amount of about 3 parts per million, but in butter made from this milk the concentration may run to 65 parts per million. Through such a process of transfer, what started out as a very small amount of DDT may end as a heavy concentration. Farmers nowadays find it difficult to obtain uncontaminated fodder for their milk cows, though the Food and Drug Administration forbids the presence of insecticide residues in milk shipped in interstate commerce.

The poison may also be passed on from mother to offspring. Insecticide residues have been recovered from human milk in samples tested by Food and Drug Administration scientists. This means that the breast-fed human infant is receiving small but regular additions to the load of toxic chemicals building up in his body. It is by no means his first exposure, however: there is good reason to believe this begins while he is still in the womb. In experimental animals the chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides freely cross the barrier of the placenta, the traditional protective shield between the embryo and harmful substances in the mother’s body. While the quantities so received by human infants would normally be small, they are not unimportant because children are more susceptible to poisoning than adults. This situation also means that today the average individual almost certainly starts life with the first deposit of the growing load of chemicals his body will be required to carry thenceforth.

All these facts—storage at even low levels, subsequent accumulation, and occurrence of liver damage at levels that may easily occur in normal diets, caused Food and Drug Administration scientists to declare as early as 1950 that it is ‘extremely likely the potential hazard of DDT has been underestimated.’ There has been no such parallel situation in medical history. No one yet knows what the ultimate consequences may be.

.    .    .

Chlordane, another chlorinated hydrocarbon, has all these unpleasant attributes of DDT plus a few that are peculiarly its

own. Its residues are long persistent in soil, on foodstuffs, or on surfaces to which it may be applied. Chlordane makes use of all available portals to enter the body. It may be absorbed through the skin, may be breathed in as a spray or dust, and of course is absorbed from the digestive tract if residues are swallowed. Like all other chlorinated hydrocarbons, its deposits build up in the body in cumulative fashion. A diet containing such a small amount of chlordane as 2.5 parts per million may eventually lead to storage of 75 parts per million in the fat of experimental animals.

So experienced a pharmacologist as Dr. Lehman has described chlordane in 1950 as ‘one of the most toxic of insecticides—anyone handling it could be poisoned.’ Judging by the carefree liberality with which dusts for lawn treatments by suburbanites are laced with chlordane, this warning has not been taken to heart. The fact that the suburbanite is not instantly stricken has little meaning, for the toxins may sleep long in his body, to become manifest months or years later in an obscure disorder almost impossible to trace to its origins. On the other hand, death may strike quickly. One victim who accidentally spilled a 25 per cent industrial solution on the skin developed symptoms of poisoning within 40 minutes and died before medical help could be obtained. No reliance can be placed on receiving advance warning which might allow treatment to be had in time.

Heptachlor, one of the constituents of chlordane, is marketed as a separate formulation. It has a particularly high capacity for storage in fat. If the diet contains as little as  of 1 part per million there will be measurable amounts of heptachlor in the body. It also has the curious ability to undergo change into a chemically distinct substance known as heptachlor epoxide. It does this in soil and in the tissues of both plants and animals. Tests on birds indicate that the epoxide that results from this change is more toxic than the original chemical, which in turn is four times as toxic as chlordane.

As long ago as the mid-1930s a special group of hydrocarbons, the chlorinated naphthalenes, was found to cause hepatitis, and also a rare and almost invariably fatal liver disease in persons subjected to occupational exposure. They have led to illness and death of workers in electrical industries; and more recently, in agriculture, they have been considered a cause of a mysterious and usually fatal disease of cattle. In view of these antecedents, it is not surprising that three of the insecticides that are related to this group are among the most violently poisonous of all the hydrocarbons. These are dieldrin, aldrin, and endrin.

Dieldrin, named for a German chemist, Diels, is about 5 times as toxic as DDT when swallowed but 40 times as toxic when absorbed through the skin in solution. It is notorious for striking quickly and with terrible effect at the nervous system, sending the victims into convulsions. Persons thus poisoned recover so slowly as to indicate chronic effects. As with other chlorinated hydrocarbons, these long-term effects include severe damage to the liver. The long duration of its residues and the effective insecticidal action make dieldrin one of the most used insecticides today, despite the appalling destruction of wildlife that has followed its use. As tested on quail and pheasants, it has proved to be about 40 to 50 times

as toxic as DDT.

There are vast gaps in our knowledge of how dieldrin is stored or distributed in the body, or excreted, for the chemists’ ingenuity in devising insecticides has long ago outrun biological knowledge of the way these poisons affect the living organism. However, there is every indication of long storage in the human body, where deposits may lie dormant like a slumbering volcano, only to flare up in periods of physiological stress when the body draws upon its fat reserves. Much of what we do know has been learned through hard experience in the antimalarial campaigns carried out by the World Health Organization. As soon as dieldrin was substituted for DDT in malaria-control work (because the malaria mosquitoes had become resistant to DDT), cases of poisoning among the spraymen began to occur. The seizures were severe—from half to all (varying in the different programs) of the men affected went into convulsions and several died. Some had convulsions as long as four months after the last exposure.

Aldrin is a somewhat mysterious substance, for although it exists as a separate entity it bears the relation of alter ego to dieldrin. When carrots are taken from a bed treated with aldrin they are found to contain residues of dieldrin. This change occurs in living tissues and also in soil. Such alchemistic transformations have led to many erroneous reports, for if a chemist, knowing aldrin has been applied, tests for it he will be deceived into thinking all residues have been dissipated. The residues are there, but they are dieldrin and this requires a different test.

Like dieldrin, aldrin is extremely toxic. It produces degenerative changes in the liver and kidneys. A quantity the size of an aspirin tablet is enough to kill more than 400 quail. Many cases of human poisonings are on record, most of them in connection with industrial handling.

Aldrin, like most of this group of insecticides, projects a menacing shadow into the future, the shadow of sterility. Pheasants fed quantities too small to kill them nevertheless laid few eggs, and the chicks that hatched soon died. The effect is not confined to birds. Rats exposed to aldrin had fewer pregnancies and their young were sickly and short-lived. Puppies born of treated mothers died within three days. By one means or another, the new generations suffer for the poisoning of their parents. No one knows whether the same effect will be seen in human beings, yet this chemical has been sprayed from airplanes over suburban areas and farmlands.

Endrin is the most toxic of all the chlorinated hydrocarbons. Although chemically rather closely related to dieldrin, a little twist in its molecular structure makes it 5 times as poisonous. It makes the progenitor of all this group of insecticides, DDT, seem by comparison almost harmless. It is 15 times as poisonous as DDT to mammals, 30 times as poisonous to fish, and about 300 times as poisonous to some birds.

In the decade of its use, endrin has killed enormous numbers of fish, has fatally poisoned cattle that have wandered into sprayed orchards, has poisoned wells, and has drawn a sharp warning from at least one state health department that its careless use is endangering human lives.

In one of the most tragic cases of endrin poisoning there was no apparent carelessness; efforts had been made to take precautions apparently considered adequate. A year-old child had been taken by his American parents to live in Venezuela. There were cockroaches in the house to which they moved, and after a few days a spray containing endrin was used. The baby and the small family dog were taken out of the house before the spraying was done about nine o’clock one morning. After the spraying the floors were washed. The baby and dog were returned to the house in midafternoon. An hour or so later the dog vomited, went into convulsions, and died. At 10 p.m. on the evening of the same day the baby also vomited, went into convulsions, and lost consciousness. After that fateful contact with endrin this normal, healthy child became little more than a vegetable—unable to see or hear, subject to frequent muscular spasms, apparently completely cut off from contact with his surroundings. Several months of treatment in a New York hospital failed to change his condition or bring hope of change. ‘It is extremely doubtful,’ reported the attending physicians, ‘that any useful degree of recovery will occur.’

.    .    .

The second major group of insecticides, the alkyl or organic phosphates, are among the most poisonous chemicals in the world. The chief and most obvious hazard attending their use is that of acute poisoning of people applying the sprays or accidentally coming in contact with drifting spray, with vegetation coated by it, or with a discarded container. In Florida, two children found an empty bag and used it to repair a swing. Shortly thereafter both of them died and three of their playmates became ill. The bag had once contained an insecticide called parathion, one of the organic phosphates; tests established death by parathion poisoning. On another occasion two small boys in Wisconsin, cousins, died on the same night. One had been playing in his yard when spray drifted in from an adjoining field where his father was spraying potatoes with parathion; the other had run playfully into the barn after his father and had put his hand on the nozzle of the spray equipment.

The origin of these insecticides has a certain ironic significance. Although some of the chemicals themselves—organic esters of phosphoric acid—had been known for many years, their insecticidal properties remained to be discovered by a German chemist, Gerhard Schrader, in the late 1930s. Almost immediately the German government recognized the value of these same chemicals as new and devastating weapons in man’s war against his own kind, and the work on them was declared secret. Some became the deadly nerve gases. Others, of closely allied structure, became insecticides.

The organic phosphorus insecticides act on the living organism in a peculiar way. They have the ability to destroy enzymes—enzymes that perform necessary functions in the body. Their target is the nervous system, whether the victim is an insect or a warm-blooded animal. Under normal conditions, an impulse passes from nerve to nerve with the aid of a ‘chemical transmitter’ called acetylcholine, a substance that performs an essential function and then disappears. Indeed, its existence is so ephemeral that medical researchers are unable, without special procedures, to sample it before the body has destroyed it. This transient nature of the transmitting chemical is necessary to the normal functioning of the body. If the acetylcholine is not destroyed as soon as a nerve impulse has passed, impulses continue to flash across the bridge from nerve to nerve, as the chemical exerts its effects in an ever more intensified manner. The movements of the whole body become uncoordinated: tremors, muscular spasms, convulsions, and death quickly result.

This contingency has been provided for by the body. A protective enzyme called cholinesterase is at hand to destroy the transmitting chemical once it is no longer needed. By this means a precise balance is struck and the body never builds up a dangerous amount of acetylcholine. But on contact with the organic phosphorus insecticides, the protective enzyme is destroyed, and as the quantity of the enzyme is reduced that of the transmitting chemical builds up. In this effect, the organic phosphorus compounds resemble the alkaloid poison muscarine, found in a poisonous mushroom, the fly amanita.

Repeated exposures may lower the cholinesterase level until an individual reaches the brink of acute poisoning, a brink over which he may be pushed by a very small additional exposure. For this reason it is considered important to make periodic examinations of the blood of spray operators and others regularly exposed.

Parathion is one of the most widely used of the organic phosphates. It is also one of the most powerful and dangerous. Honeybees become ‘wildly agitated and bellicose’ on contact with it, perform frantic cleaning movements, and are near death within half an hour. A chemist, thinking to learn by the most direct possible means the dose acutely toxic to human beings, swallowed a minute amount, equivalent to about .00424 ounce. Paralysis followed so instantaneously that he could not reach the antidotes he had prepared at hand, and so he died. Parathion is now said to be a favorite instrument of suicide in Finland. In recent years the State of California has reported an average of more than 200 cases of accidental parathion poisoning annually. In many parts of the world the fatality rate from parathion is startling: 100 fatal cases in India and 67 in Syria in 1958, and an average of 336 deaths per year in Japan.

Yet some 7,000,000 pounds of parathion are now applied to fields and orchards of the United States—by hand sprayers, motorized blowers and dusters, and by airplane. The amount used on California farms alone could, according to one medical authority, ‘provide a lethal dose for 5 to 10 times the whole world’s population.’

One of the few circumstances that save us from extinction by this means is the fact that parathion and other chemicals of this group are decomposed rather rapidly. Their residues on the crops to which they are applied are therefore relatively shortlived compared with the chlorinated hydrocarbons. However, they last long enough to create hazards and produce consequences that range from the merely serious to the fatal. In Riverside, California, eleven out of thirty men picking oranges became violently ill and all but one had to be hospitalized. Their symptoms were typical of parathion poisoning. The grove had been sprayed with parathion some two and a half weeks earlier; the residues that reduced them to retching, half-blind, semiconscious misery were sixteen to nineteen days old. And this is not by any means a record for persistence. Similar mishaps have occurred in groves sprayed a month earlier, and residues have been found in the peel of oranges six months after treatment with standard dosages.

The danger to all workers applying the organic phosphorus insecticides in fields, orchards, and vineyards, is so extreme that some states using these chemicals have established laboratories where physicians may obtain aid in diagnosis and treatment. Even the physicians themselves may be in some danger, unless they wear rubber gloves in handling the victims of poisoning. So may a laundress washing the clothing of such victims, which may have absorbed enough parathion to affect her.

Malathion, another of the organic phosphates, is almost as familiar to the public as DDT, being widely used by gardeners, in household insecticides, in mosquito spraying, and in such blanket attacks on insects as the spraying of nearly a million acres of Florida communities for the Mediterranean fruit fly. It is considered the least toxic of this group of chemicals and many people assume they may use it freely and without fear of harm. Commercial advertising encourages this comfortable attitude.

The alleged ‘safety’ of malathion rests on rather precarious ground, although—as often happens—this was not discovered until the chemical had been in use for several years. Malathion is ‘safe’ only because the mammalian liver, an organ with extraordinary protective powers, renders it relatively harmless. The detoxification is accomplished by one of the enzymes of the liver. If, however, something destroys this enzyme or interferes with its action, the person exposed to malathion receives the full force of the poison.

Unfortunately for all of us, opportunities for this sort of thing to happen are legion. A few years ago a team of Food and Drug Administration scientists discovered that when malathion and certain other organic phosphates are administered simultaneously a massive poisoning results—up to 50 times as severe as would be predicted on the basis of adding together the toxicities of the two. In other words,  of the lethal dose of each compound may be fatal when the two are combined.

This discovery led to the testing of other combinations. It is now known that many pairs of organic phosphate insecticides are highly dangerous, the toxicity being stepped up or ‘potentiated’ through the combined action. Potentiation seems to take place when one compound destroys the liver enzyme responsible for detoxifying the other. The two need not be given simultaneously. The hazard exists not only for the man who may spray this week with one insecticide and next week with another; it exists also for the consumer of sprayed products. The common salad bowl may easily present a combination of organic phosphate insecticides. Residues well within the legally permissible limits may interact.

The full scope of the dangerous interaction of chemicals is as yet little known, but disturbing findings now come regularly from scientific laboratories. Among these is the discovery that the toxicity of an organic phosphate can be increased by a second agent that is not necessarily an insecticide. For example, one of the plasticizing agents may act even more strongly than another insecticide to make malathion more dangerous. Again, this is because it inhibits the liver enzyme that normally would ‘draw the teeth’ of the poisonous insecticide.

What of other chemicals in the normal human environment? What, in particular, of drugs? A bare beginning has been made on this subject, but already it is known that some organic phosphates (parathion and malathion) increase the toxicity of some drugs used as muscle relaxants, and that several others (again including malathion) markedly increase the sleeping time of barbiturates.

.    .    .

In Greek mythology the sorceress Medea, enraged at being supplanted by a rival for the affections of her husband Jason, presented the new bride with a robe possessing magic properties. The wearer of the robe immediately suffered a violent death. This death-by-indirection now finds its counterpart in what are known as ‘systemic insecticides’. These are chemicals with extraordinary properties which are used to convert plants or animals into a sort of Medea’s robe by making them actually poisonous. This is done with the purpose of killing insects that may come in contact with them, especially by sucking their juices or blood.

The world of systemic insecticides is a weird world, surpassing the imaginings of the brothers Grimm—perhaps most closely akin to the cartoon world of Charles Addams. It is a world where the enchanted forest of the fairy tales has become the poisonous forest in which an insect that chews a leaf or sucks the sap of a plant is doomed. It is a world where a flea bites a dog, and dies because the dog’s blood has been made poisonous, where an insect may die from vapors emanating from a plant it has never touched, where a bee may carry poisonous nectar back to its hive and presently produce poisonous honey.

The entomologists’ dream of the built-in insecticide was born when workers in the field of applied entomology realized they could take a hint from nature: they found that wheat growing in soil containing sodium selenate was immune to attack by aphids or spider mites. Selenium, a naturally occurring element found sparingly in rocks and soils of many parts of the world, thus became the first systemic insecticide.

What makes an insecticide a systemic is the ability to permeate all the tissues of a plant or animal and make them toxic. This quality is possessed by some chemicals of the chlorinated hydrocarbon group and by others of the organophosphorus group, all synthetically produced, as well as by certain naturally occurring substances. In practice, however, most systemics are drawn from the organophosphorus group because the problem of residues is somewhat less acute.

Systemics act in other devious ways. Applied to seeds, either by soaking or in a coating combined with carbon, they extend their effects into the following plant generation and produce seedlings poisonous to aphids and other sucking insects. Vegetables such as peas, beans, and sugar beets are sometimes thus protected. Cotton seeds coated with a systemic insecticide have been in use for some time in California, where 25 farm labourers planting cotton in the San Joaquin Valley in 1959 were seized with sudden illness, caused by handling the bags of treated seeds.

In England someone wondered what happened when bees made use of nectar from plants treated with systemics. This was investigated in areas treated with a chemical called schradan. Although the plants had been sprayed before the flowers were formed, the nectar later produced contained the poison. The result, as might have been predicted, was that the honey made by the bees also was contaminated with schradan.

Use of animal systemics has concentrated chiefly on control of the cattle grub, a damaging parasite of livestock. Extreme care must be used in order to create an insecticidal effect in the blood and tissues of the host without setting up a fatal poisoning. The balance is delicate and government veterinarians have found that repeated small doses can gradually deplete an animal’s supply of the protective enzyme cholinesterase, so that without warning a minute additional dose will cause poisoning.

There are strong indications that fields closer to our daily lives are being opened up. You may now give your dog a pill which, it is claimed, will rid him of fleas by making his blood poisonous to them. The hazards discovered in treating cattle would presumably apply to the dog. As yet no one seems to have proposed a human systemic that would make us lethal to a mosquito. Perhaps this is the next step.

.    .    .

So far in this chapter we have been discussing the deadly chemicals that are being used in our war against the insects. What of our simultaneous war against the weeds?

The desire for a quick and easy method of killing unwanted plants has given rise to a large and growing array of chemicals that are known as herbicides, or, less formally, as weed killers. The story of how these chemicals are used and misused will be told in Chapter 6; the question that here concerns us is whether the weed killers are poisons and whether their rise is contributing to the poisoning of the environment.

The legend that the herbicides are toxic only to plants and so pose no threat to animal life has been widely disseminated, but unfortunately it is not true. The plant killers include a large variety of chemicals that act on animal tissue as well as on vegetation. They vary greatly in their action on the organism. Some are general poisons, some are powerful stimulants of metabolism, causing a fatal rise in body temperature, some induce malignant tumors either alone or in partnership with other chemicals, some strike at the genetic material of the race by causing gene mutations. The herbicides, then, like the insecticides, include some very dangerous chemicals, and their careless use in the belief that they are ‘safe’ can have disastrous results.

Despite the competition of a constant stream of new chemicals issuing from the laboratories, arsenic compounds are still liberally used, both as insecticides (as mentioned above) and as weed killers, where they usually take the chemical form of sodium arsenite. The history of their use is not reassuring. As roadside sprays, they have cost many a farmer his cow and killed uncounted numbers of wild creatures. As aquatic weed killers in lakes and reservoirs they have made public waters unsuitable for drinking or even for swimming. As a spray applied to potato fields to destroy the vines they have taken a toll of human and nonhuman life.

In England this latter practice developed about 1951 as a result of a shortage of sulfuric acid, formerly used to burn off the potato vines. The Ministry of Agriculture considered it necessary to give warning of the hazard of going into the arsenic-sprayed fields, but the warning was not understood by the cattle (nor, we must presume, by the wild animals and birds) and reports of cattle poisoned by the arsenic sprays came with monotonous regularity. When death came also to a farmer’s wife through arsenic-contaminated water, one of the major English chemical companies (in 1959) stopped production of arsenical sprays and called in supplies already in the hands of dealers, and shortly thereafter the Ministry of Agriculture announced that because of high risks to people and cattle restrictions on the use of arsenites would be imposed. In 1961, the Australian government announced a similar ban. No such restrictions impede the use of these poisons in the United States, however.

Some of the ‘dinitro’ compounds are also used as herbicides. They are rated as among the most dangerous materials of this type in use in the United States. Dinitrophenol is a strong metabolic stimulant. For this reason it was at one time used as a reducing drug, but the margin between the slimming dose and that required to poison or kill was slight—so slight that several patients died and many suffered permanent injury before use of the drug was finally halted.

A related chemical, pentachlorophenol, sometimes known as ‘penta’, is used as a weed killer as well as an insecticide, often being sprayed along railroad tracks and in waste areas. Penta is extremely toxic to a wide variety of organisms from bacteria to man. Like the dinitros, it interferes, often fatally, with the body’s source of energy, so that the affected organism almost literally burns itself up. Its fearful power is illustrated in a fatal accident recently reported by the California Department of Health. A tank truck driver was preparing a cotton defoliant by mixing diesel oil with pentachlorophenol. As he was drawing the concentrated chemical out of a drum, the spigot accidentally toppled back. He reached in with his bare hand to regain the spigot. Although he washed immediately, he became acutely ill and died the next day.

While the results of weed killers such as sodium arsenite or the phenols are grossly obvious, some other herbicides are more insidious in their effects. For example, the now famous cranberry-weed killer aminotriazole, or amitrol, is rated as having relatively low toxicity. But in the long run its tendency to cause malignant tumors of the thyroid may be far more significant for wildlife and perhaps also for man.

Among the herbicides are some that are classified as ‘mutagens’, or agents capable of modifying the genes, the materials of heredity. We are rightly appalled by the genetic effects of radiation; how then, can we be indifferent to the same effect in chemicals that we disseminate widely in our environment?



4. Surface Waters and Underground Seas


OF ALL our natural resources water has become the most precious. By far the greater part of the earth’s surface is covered by its enveloping seas, yet in the midst of this plenty we are in want. By a strange paradox, most of the earth’s abundant water is not usable for agriculture, industry, or human consumption because of its heavy load of sea salts, and so most of the world’s population is either experiencing or is threatened with critical shortages. In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.

The problem of water pollution by pesticides can be understood only in context, as part of the whole to which it belongs—the pollution of the total environment of mankind. The pollution entering our waterways comes from many sources: radioactive wastes from reactors, laboratories, and hospitals; fallout from nuclear explosions; domestic wastes from cities and towns; chemical wastes from factories. To these is added a new kind of fallout—the chemical sprays applied to croplands and gardens, forests and fields. Many of the chemical agents in this alarming mélange imitate and augment the harmful effects of radiation, and within the groups of chemicals themselves there are sinister and littleunderstood interactions, transformations, and summations of effect.

Ever since chemists began to manufacture substances that nature never invented, the problems of water purification have become complex and the danger to users of water has increased. As we have seen, the production of these synthetic chemicals in large volume began in the 1940s. It has now reached such proportions that an appalling deluge of chemical pollution is daily poured into the nation’s waterways. When inextricably mixed with domestic and other wastes discharged into the same water, these chemicals sometimes defy detection by the methods in ordinary use by purification plants. Most of them are so stable that they cannot be broken down by ordinary processes. Often they cannot even be identified. In rivers, a really incredible variety of pollutants combine to produce deposits that the sanitary engineers can only despairingly refer to as ‘gunk’. Professor Rolf Eliassen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology testified before a congressional committee to the impossibility of predicting the composite effect of these chemicals, or of identifying the organic matter resulting from the mixture. ‘We don’t begin to know what that is,’ said Professor Eliassen. ‘What is the effect on the people? We don’t know.’

To an ever-increasing degree, chemicals used for the control of insects, rodents, or unwanted vegetation contribute to these organic pollutants. Some are deliberately applied to bodies of water to destroy plants, insect larvae, or undesired fishes. Some come from forest spraying that may blanket two or three million acres of a single state with spray directed against a single insect pest—spray that falls directly into streams or that drips down through the leafy canopy to the forest floor, there to become part of the slow movement of seeping moisture beginning its long journey to the sea. Probably the bulk of such contaminants are the waterborne residues of the millions of pounds of agricultural chemicals that have been applied to farmlands for insect or rodent control and have been leached out of the ground by rains to become part of the universal seaward movement of water.

Here and there we have dramatic evidence of the presence of these chemicals in our streams and even in public water supplies. For example, a sample of drinking water from an orchard area in Pennsylvania, when tested on fish in a laboratory, contained enough insecticide to kill all of the test fish in only four hours. Water from a stream draining sprayed cotton fields remained lethal to fishes even after it had passed through a purifying plant, and in fifteen streams tributary to the Tennessee River in Alabama the runoff from fields treated with toxaphene, a chlorinated hydrocarbon, killed all the fish inhabiting the streams. Two of these streams were sources of municipal water supply. Yet for a week after the application of the insecticide the water remained poisonous, a fact attested by the daily deaths of goldfish suspended in cages downstream.

For the most part this pollution is unseen and invisible, making its presence known when hundreds or thousands of fish die, but more often never detected at all. The chemist who guards water purity has no routine tests for these organic pollutants and no way to remove them. But whether detected or not, the pesticides are there, and as might be expected with any materials applied to land surfaces on so vast a scale, they have now found their way into many and perhaps all of the major river systems of the country.

If anyone doubts that our waters have become almost universally contaminated with insecticides he should study a small report issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1960. The Service had carried out studies to discover whether fish, like warm-blooded animals, store insecticides in their tissues. The first samples were taken from forest areas in the West where there had been mass spraying of DDT for the control of the spruce budworm. As might have been expected, all of these fish contained DDT. The really significant findings were made when the investigators turned for comparison to a creek in a remote area about 30 miles from the nearest spraying for budworm control. This creek was upstream from the first and separated from it by a high waterfall. No local spraying was known to have occurred. Yet these fish, too, contained DDT. Had the chemical reached this remote creek by hidden underground streams? Or had it been airborne, drifting down as fallout on the surface of the creek? In still another comparative study, DDT was found in the tissues of fish from a hatchery where the water supply originated in a deep well. Again there was no record of local spraying. The only possible means of contamination seemed to be by means of groundwater.

In the entire water-pollution problem, there is probably nothing more disturbing than the threat of widespread contamination of groundwater. It is not possible to add pesticides to water anywhere without threatening the purity of water everywhere. Seldom if ever does Nature operate in closed and separate compartments, and she has not done so in distributing the earth’s water supply. Rain, falling on the land, settles down through pores and cracks in soil and rock, penetrating deeper and deeper until eventually it reaches a zone where all the pores of the rock are filled with water, a dark, subsurface sea, rising under hills, sinking beneath valleys. This groundwater is always on the move, sometimes at a pace so slow that it travels no more than 50 feet a year, sometimes rapidly, by comparison, so that it moves nearly a tenth of a mile in a day. It travels by unseen waterways until here and there it comes to the surface as a spring, or perhaps it is tapped to feed a well. But mostly it contributes to streams and so to rivers. Except for what enters streams directly as rain or surface runoff, all the running water of the earth’s surface was at one time groundwater. And so, in a very real and frightening sense, pollution of the groundwater is pollution of water everywhere.

.    .    .

It must have been by such a dark, underground sea that poisonous chemicals traveled from a manufacturing plant in Colorado to a farming district several miles away, there to poison wells, sicken humans and livestock, and damage crops—an extraordinary episode that may easily be only the first of many like it. Its history, in brief, is this. In 1943, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal of the Army Chemical Corps, located near Denver, began to manufacture war materials. Eight years later the facilities of the arsenal were leased to a private oil company for the production of insecticides. Even before the change of operations, however, mysterious reports had begun to come in. Farmers several miles from the plant began to report unexplained sickness among livestock; they complained of extensive crop damage. Foliage turned yellow, plants failed to mature, and many crops were killed outright. There were reports of human illness, thought by some to be related.

The irrigation waters on these farms were derived from shallow wells. When the well waters were examined (in a study in 1959, in which several state and federal agencies participated) they were found to contain an assortment of chemicals. Chlorides, chlorates, salts of phosphoric acid, fluorides, and arsenic had been discharged from the Rocky Mountain

Arsenal into holding ponds during the years of its operation. Apparently the groundwater between the arsenal and the farms had become contaminated and it had taken 7 to 8 years for the wastes to travel underground a distance of about 3 miles from the holding ponds to the nearest farm. This seepage had continued to spread and had further contaminated an area of unknown extent. The investigators knew of no way to contain the contamination or halt its advance.

All this was bad enough, but the most mysterious and probably in the long run the most significant feature of the whole episode was the discovery of the weed killer 2,4-D in some of the wells and in the holding ponds of the arsenal. Certainly its presence was enough to account for the damage to crops irrigated with this water. But the mystery lay in the fact that no 2,4-D had been manufactured at the arsenal at any stage of its operations.

After long and careful study, the chemists at the plant concluded that the 2,4-D had been formed spontaneously in the open basins. It had been formed there from other substances discharged from the arsenal; in the presence of air, water, and sunlight, and quite without the intervention of human chemists, the holding ponds had become chemical laboratories for the production of a new chemical—a chemical fatally damaging to much of the plant life it touched.

And so the story of the Colorado farms and their damaged crops assumes a significance that transcends its local importance. What other parallels may there be, not only in Colorado but wherever chemical pollution finds its way into public waters? In lakes and streams everywhere, in the presence of catalyzing air and sunlight, what dangerous substances may be born of parent chemicals labeled ‘harmless’?

Indeed one of the most alarming aspects of the chemical pollution of water is the fact that here—in river or lake or reservoir, or for that matter in the glass of water served at your dinner table—are mingled chemicals that no responsible chemist would think of combining in his laboratory. The possible interactions between these freely mixed chemicals are deeply disturbing to officials of the United States Public Health Service, who have expressed the fear that the production of harmful substances from comparatively innocuous chemicals may be taking place on quite a wide scale. The reactions may be between two or more chemicals, or between chemicals and the radioactive wastes that are being discharged into our rivers in ever-increasing volume. Under the impact of ionizing radiation some rearrangement of atoms could easily occur, changing the nature of the chemicals in a way that is not only unpredictable but beyond control.

It is, of course, not only the groundwaters that are becoming contaminated, but surface-moving waters as well— streams, rivers, irrigation waters. A disturbing example of the latter seems to be building up on the national wildlife refuges at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath, both in California. These refuges are part of a chain including also the refuge on Upper Klamath Lake just over the border in Oregon. All are linked, perhaps fatefully, by a shared water supply, and all are affected by the fact that they lie like small islands in a great sea of surrounding farmlands—land reclaimed by drainage and stream diversion from an original waterfowl paradise of marshland and open water.

These farmlands around the refuges are now irrigated by water from Upper Klamath Lake. The irrigation waters, recollected from the fields they have served, are then pumped into Tule Lake and from there to Lower Klamath. All of the waters of the wildlife refuges established on these two bodies of water therefore represent the drainage of agricultural lands. It is important to remember this in connection with recent happenings.

In the summer of 1960 the refuge staff picked up hundreds of dead and dying birds at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath. Most of them were fish-eating species—herons, pelicans, gulls. Upon analysis, they were found to contain insecticide residues identified as toxaphene, DDD, and DDE. Fish from the lakes were also found to contain insecticides; so did samples of plankton. The refuge manager believes that pesticide residues are now building up in the waters of these refuges, being conveyed there by return irrigation flow from heavily sprayed agricultural lands.

Such poisoning of waters set aside for conservation purposes could have consequences felt by every western duck hunter and by everyone to whom the sight and sound of drifting ribbons of waterfowl across an evening sky are precious. These particular refuges occupy critical positions in the conservation of western waterfowl. They lie at a point corresponding to the narrow neck of a funnel, into which all the migratory paths composing what is known as the Pacific Flyway converge. During the fall migration they receive many millions of ducks and geese from nesting grounds extending from the shores of Bering Sea east to Hudson Bay—fully three fourths of all the waterfowl that move south into the Pacific Coast states in autumn. In summer they provide nesting areas for waterfowl, especially for two endangered species, the redhead and the ruddy duck. If the lakes and pools of these refuges become seriously contaminated the damage to the waterfowl populations of the Far West could be irreparable.

Water must also be thought of in terms of the chains of life it supports—from the small-as-dust green cells of the drifting plant plankton, through the minute water fleas to the fishes that strain plankton from the water and are in turn eaten by other fishes or by birds, mink, raccoons—in an endless cyclic transfer of materials from life to life. We know that the necessary minerals in the water are so passed from link to link of the food chains. Can we suppose that poisons we introduce into water will not also enter into these cycles of nature?

The answer is to be found in the amazing history of Clear Lake, California. Clear Lake lies in mountainous country some 90 miles north of San Francisco and has long been popular with anglers. The name is inappropriate, for actually it is a rather turbid lake because of the soft black ooze that covers its shallow bottom. Unfortunately for the fishermen and the resort dwellers on its shores, its waters have provided an ideal habitat for a small gnat, Chaoborus astictopus. Although closely related to mosquitoes, the gnat is not a bloodsucker and probably does not feed at all as an adult. However, human beings who shared its habitat found it annoying because of its sheer numbers. Efforts were made to control it but they were largely fruitless until, in the late 1940s, the chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides offered new weapons. The

chemical chosen for a fresh attack was DDD, a close relative of DDT but apparently offering fewer threats to fish life.

The new control measures undertaken in 1949 were carefully planned and few people would have supposed any harm could result. The lake was surveyed, its volume determined, and the insecticide applied in such great dilution that for every part of chemical there would be 70 million parts of water. Control of the gnats was at first good, but by 1954 the treatment had to be repeated, this time at the rate of 1 part of insecticide in 50 million parts of water. The destruction of the gnats was thought to be virtually complete.

The following winter months brought the first intimation that other life was affected: the western grebes on the lake began to die, and soon more than a hundred of them were reported dead. At Clear Lake the western grebe is a breeding bird and also a winter visitant, attracted by the abundant fish of the lake. It is a bird of spectacular appearance and beguiling habits, building its floating nests in shallow lakes of western United States and Canada. It is called the ‘swan grebe’ with reason, for it glides with scarcely a ripple across the lake surface, the body riding low, white neck and shining black head held high. The newly hatched chick is clothed in soft gray down; in only a few hours it takes to the water and rides on the back of the father or mother, nestled under the parental wing coverts.

Following a third assault on the ever-resilient gnat population, in 1957, more grebes died. As had been true in 1954, no evidence of infectious disease could be discovered on examination of the dead birds. But when someone thought to analyze the fatty tissues of the grebes, they were found to be loaded with DDD in the extraordinary concentration of 1600 parts per million.

The maximum concentration applied to the water was  part per million. How could the chemical have built up to such prodigious levels in the grebes? These birds, of course, are fish eaters. When the fish of Clear Lake also were analyzed the picture began to take form—the poison being picked up by the smallest organisms, concentrated and passed on to the larger predators. Plankton organisms were found to contain about 5 parts per million of the insecticide (about 25 times the maximum concentration ever reached in the water itself); plant-eating fishes had built up accumulations ranging from 40 to 300 parts per million; carnivorous species had stored the most of all. One, a brown bullhead, had the astounding concentration of 2500 parts per million. It was a house-that-Jack-built sequence, in which the large carnivores had eaten the smaller carnivores, that had eaten the herbivores, that had eaten the plankton, that had absorbed the poison from the water.

Even more extraordinary discoveries were made later. No trace of DDD could be found in the water shortly after the last application of the chemical. But the poison had not really left the lake; it had merely gone into the fabric of the life the lake supports. Twenty-three months after the chemical treatment had ceased, the plankton still contained as much as

5.3 parts per million. In that interval of nearly two years, successive crops of plankton had flowered and faded away, but the poison, although no longer present in the water, had somehow passed from generation to generation. And it lived on in the animal life of the lake as well. All fish, birds, and frogs examined a year after the chemical applications had ceased still contained DDD. The amount found in the flesh always exceeded by many times the original concentration in the water. Among these living carriers were fish that had hatched nine months after the last DDD application, grebes, and California gulls that had built up concentrations of more than 2000 parts per million. Meanwhile, the nesting colonies of the grebes dwindled—from more than 1000 pairs before the first insecticide treatment to about 30 pairs in 1960. And even the thirty seem to have nested in vain, for no young grebes have been observed on the lake since the last DDD application.

This whole chain of poisoning, then, seems to rest on a base of minute plants which must have been the original concentrators. But what of the opposite end of the food chain—the human being who, in probable ignorance of all this sequence of events, has rigged his fishing tackle, caught a string of fish from the waters of Clear Lake, and taken them home to fry for his supper? What could a heavy dose of DDD, or perhaps repeated doses, do to him?

Although the California Department of Public Health professed to see no hazard, nevertheless in 1959 it required that the use of DDD in the lake be stopped. In view of the scientific evidence of the vast biological potency of this chemical, the action seems a minimum safety measure. The physiological effect of DDD is probably unique among insecticides, for it destroys part of the adrenal gland— the cells of the outer layer known as the adrenal cortex, which secretes the hormone cortin. This destructive effect, known since 1948, was at first believed to be confined to dogs, because it was not revealed in such experimental animals as monkeys, rats, or rabbits. It seemed suggestive, however, that DDD produced in dogs a condition very similar to that occurring in man in the presence of Addison’s disease. Recent medical research has revealed that DDD does strongly suppress the function of the human adrenal cortex. Its cell-destroying capacity is now clinically utilized in the treatment of a rare type of cancer which develops in the adrenal gland.

.    .    .

The Clear Lake situation brings up a question that the public needs to face: Is it wise or desirable to use substances with such strong effect on physiological processes for the control of insects, especially when the control measures involve introducing the chemical directly into a body of water? The fact that the insecticide was applied in very low concentrations is meaningless, as its explosive progress through the natural food chain in the lake demonstrates. Yet Clear Lake is typical of a large and growing number of situations where solution of an obvious and often trivial problem creates a far more serious but conveniently less tangible one. Here the problem was resolved in favor of those annoyed by gnats, and at the expense of an unstated, and probably not even clearly understood, risk to all who took food or water from the lake.

It is an extraordinary fact that the deliberate introduction of poisons into a reservoir is becoming a fairly common practice. The purpose is usually to promote recreational uses, even though the water must then be treated at some expense to make it fit for its intended use as drinking water. When sportsmen of an area want to ‘improve’ fishing in a reservoir, they prevail on authorities to dump quantities of poison into it to kill the undesired fish, which are then replaced with hatchery fish more suited to the sportsmen’s taste. The procedure has a strange, Alice-in-Wonderland quality. The reservoir was created as a public water supply, yet the community, probably unconsulted about the sportsmen’s project, is forced either to drink water containing poisonous residues or to pay out tax money for treatment of the water to remove the poisons—treatments that are by no means foolproof.

As ground and surface waters are contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals, there is danger that not only poisonous but also cancer-producing substances are being introduced into public water supplies. Dr. W. C. Hueper of the National Cancer Institute has warned that ‘the danger of cancer hazards from the consumption of contaminated drinking water will grow considerably within the foreseeable future.’ And indeed a study made in Holland in the early 1950s provides support for the view that polluted waterways may carry a cancer hazard. Cities receiving their drinking water from rivers had a higher death rate from cancer than did those whose water came from sources presumably less susceptible to pollution such as wells. Arsenic, the environmental substance most clearly established as causing cancer in man, is involved in two historic cases in which polluted water supplies caused widespread occurrence of cancer. In one case the arsenic came from the slag heaps of mining operations, in the other from rock with a high natural content of arsenic. These conditions may easily be duplicated as a result of heavy applications of arsenical insecticides. The soil in such areas becomes poisoned. Rains then carry part of the arsenic into streams, rivers, and reservoirs, as well as into the vast subterranean seas of groundwater.

Here again we are reminded that in nature nothing exists alone. To understand more clearly how the pollution of our world is happening, we must now look at another of the earth’s basic resources, the soil.


5. Realms of the Soil


THE THIN LAYER of soil that forms a patchy covering over the continents controls our own existence and that of every other animal of the land. Without soil, land plants as we know them could not grow, and without plants no animals could survive.

Yet if our agriculture-based life depends on the soil, it is equally true that soil depends on life, its very origins and the maintenance of its true nature being intimately related to living plants and animals. For soil is in part a creation of life, born of a marvelous interaction of life and nonlife long eons ago. The parent materials were gathered together as volcanoes poured them out in fiery streams, as waters running over the bare rocks of the continents wore away even the hardest granite, and as the chisels of frost and ice split and shattered the rocks. Then living things began to work their creative magic and little by little these inert materials became soil. Lichens, the rocks’ first covering, aided the process of disintegration by their acid secretions and made a lodging place for other life. Mosses took hold in the little pockets of simple soil—soil formed by crumbling bits of lichen, by the husks of minute insect life, by the debris of a fauna beginning its emergence from the sea.

Life not only formed the soil, but other living things of incredible abundance and diversity now exist within it; if this were not so the soil would be a dead and sterile thing. By their presence and by their activities the myriad organisms of the soil make it capable of supporting the earth’s green mantle.

The soil exists in a state of constant change, taking part in cycles that have no beginning and no end. New materials are constantly being contributed as rocks disintegrate, as organic matter decays, and as nitrogen and other gases are brought down in rain from the skies. At the same time other materials are being taken away, borrowed for temporary use by living creatures. Subtle and vastly important chemical changes are constantly in progress, converting elements derived from air and water into forms suitable for use by plants. In all these changes living organisms are active agents.

There are few studies more fascinating, and at the same time more neglected, than those of the teeming populations that exist in the dark realms of the soil. We know too little of the threads that bind the soil organisms to each other and to their world, and to the world above.

Perhaps the most essential organisms in the soil are the smallest—the invisible hosts of bacteria and of threadlike fungi. Statistics of their abundance take us at once into astronomical figures. A teaspoonful of topsoil may contain billions of bacteria. In spite of their minute size, the total weight of this host of bacteria in the top foot of a single acre of fertile soil may be as much as a thousand pounds. Ray fungi, growing in long threadlike filaments, are somewhat less numerous than the bacteria, yet because they are larger their total weight in a given amount of soil may be about the same. With small green cells called algae, these make up the microscopic plant life of the soil.

Bacteria, fungi, and algae are the principal agents of decay, reducing plant and animal residues to their component minerals. The vast cyclic movements of chemical elements such as carbon and nitrogen through soil and air and living tissue could not proceed without these microplants. Without the nitrogen-fixing bacteria, for example, plants would starve for want of nitrogen, though surrounded by a sea of nitrogen-containing air. Other organisms form carbon dioxide, which, as carbonic acid, aids in dissolving rock. Still other soil microbes perform various oxidations and reductions by which minerals such as iron, manganese, and sulfur are transformed and made available to plants.

Also present in prodigious numbers are microscopic mites and primitive wingless insects called springtails. Despite their small size they play an important part in breaking down the residues of plants, aiding in the slow conversion of the litter of the forest floor to soil. The specialization of some of these minute creatures for their task is almost incredible. Several species of mites, for example, can begin life only within the fallen needles of a spruce tree. Sheltered here, they digest out the inner tissues of the needle. When the mites have completed their development only the outer layer of cells remains. The truly staggering task of dealing with the tremendous amount of plant material in the annual leaf fall belongs to some of the small insects of the soil and the forest floor. They macerate and digest the leaves, and aid in mixing the decomposed matter with the surface soil.

Besides all this horde of minute but ceaselessly toiling creatures there are of course many larger forms, for soil life runs the gamut from bacteria to mammals. Some are permanent residents of the dark subsurface layers; some hibernate or spend definite parts of their life cycles in underground chambers; some freely come and go between their burrows and the upper world. In general the effect of all this habitation of the soil is to aerate it and improve both its drainage and the penetration of water throughout the layers of plant growth.

Of all the larger inhabitants of the soil, probably none is more important than the earthworm. Over three quarters of a century ago, Charles Darwin published a book titled The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits. In it he gave the world its first understanding of the fundamental role of earthworms as geologic agents for the transport of soil—a picture of surface rocks being gradually covered by fine soil brought up from below by the worms, in annual amounts running to many tons to the acre in most favorable areas. At the same time, quantities of organic matter contained in leaves and grass (as much as 20 pounds to the square yard in six months) are drawn down into the burrows and incorporated in soil. Darwin’s calculations showed that the toil of earthworms might add a layer of soil an inch to an inch and a half thick in a ten-year period. And this is by no means all they do: their burrows aerate the soil, keep it well drained, and aid the penetration of plant roots. The presence of earthworms increases the nitrifying powers of the soil bacteria and decreases putrefaction of the soil. Organic matter is broken down as it passes through the digestive tracts of the worms and the soil is enriched by their excretory products.

This soil community, then, consists of a web of interwoven lives, each in some way related to the others—the living creatures depending on the soil, but the soil in turn a vital element of the earth only so long as this community within it flourishes.

The problem that concerns us here is one that has received little consideration: What happens to these incredibly numerous and vitally necessary inhabitants of the soil when poisonous chemicals are carried down into their world, either introduced directly as soil ‘sterilants’ or borne on the rain that has picked up a lethal contamination as it filters through the leaf canopy of forest and orchard and cropland? Is it reasonable to suppose that we can apply a broad-spectrum

insecticide to kill the burrowing larval stages of a crop-destroying insect, for example, without also killing the ‘good’

insects whose function may be the essential one of breaking down organic matter? Or can we use a nonspecific fungicide without also killing the fungi that inhabit the roots of many trees in a beneficial association that aids the tree in extracting nutrients from the soil?

The plain truth is that this critically important subject of the ecology of the soil has been largely neglected even by scientists and almost completely ignored by control men. Chemical control of insects seems to have proceeded on the assumption that the soil could and would sustain any amount of insult via the introduction of poisons without striking back. The very nature of the world of the soil has been largely ignored.

From the few studies that have been made, a picture of the impact of pesticides on the soil is slowly emerging. It is not surprising that the studies are not always in agreement, for soil types vary so enormously that what causes damage in one may be innocuous in another. Light sandy soils suffer far more heavily than humus types. Combinations of chemicals seem to do more harm than separate applications. Despite the varying results, enough solid evidence of harm is accumulating to cause apprehension on the part of many scientists.

Under some conditions, the chemical conversions and transformations that lie at the very heart of the living world are affected. Nitrification, which makes atmospheric nitrogen available to plants, is an example. The herbicide 2,4-D causes a temporary interruption of nitrification. In recent experiments in Florida, lindane, heptachlor, and BHC (benzene hexachloride) reduced nitrification after only two weeks in soil; BHC and DDT had significantly detrimental effects a year after treatment. In other experiments BHC, aldrin, lindane, heptachlor, and DDD all prevented nitrogen-fixing bacteria from forming the necessary root nodules on leguminous plants. A curious but beneficial relation between fungi and the roots of higher plants is seriously disrupted.

Sometimes the problem is one of upsetting that delicate balance of populations by which nature accomplishes farreaching aims. Explosive increases in some kinds of soil organisms have occurred when others have been reduced by insecticides, disturbing the relation of predator to prey. Such changes could easily alter the metabolic activity of the soil and affect its productivity. They could also mean that potentially harmful organisms, formerly held in check, could escape from their natural controls and rise to pest status.

One of the most important things to remember about insecticides in soil is their long persistence, measured not in months but in years. Aldrin has been recovered after four years, both as traces and more abundantly as converted to dieldrin. Enough toxaphene remains in sandy soil ten years after its application to kill termites. Benzene hexachloride persists at least eleven years; heptachlor or a more toxic derived chemical, at least nine. Chlordane has been recovered twelve years after its application, in the amount of 15 per cent of the original quantity.

Seemingly moderate applications of insecticides over a period of years may build up fantastic quantities in soil. Since the chlorinated hydrocarbons are persistent and long-lasting, each application is merely added to the quantity remaining from the previous one. The old legend that ‘a pound of DDT to the acre is harmless’ means nothing if spraying is repeated. Potato soils have been found to contain up to 15 pounds of DDT per acre, corn soils up to 19. A cranberry bog under study contained 34.5 pounds to the acre. Soils from apple orchards seem to reach the peak of contamination, with DDT accumulating at a rate that almost keeps pace with its rate of annual application. Even in a single season, with orchards sprayed four or more times, DDT residues may build up to peaks of 30 to 50 pounds. With repeated spraying over the years the range between trees is from 26 to 60 pounds to the acre; under trees, up to 113 pounds.

Arsenic provides a classic case of the virtually permanent poisoning of the soil. Although arsenic as a spray on growing tobacco has been largely replaced by the synthetic organic insecticides since the mid-40s, the arsenic content of cigarettes made from American-grown tobacco increased more than 300 per cent between the years 1932 and 1952. Later studies have revealed increases of as much as 600 per cent. Dr. Henry S. Satterlee, an authority on arsenic toxicology, says that although organic insecticides have been largely substituted for arsenic, the tobacco plants continue to pick up the old poison, for the soils of tobacco plantations are now thoroughly impregnated with residues of a heavy and relatively insoluble poison, arsenate of lead. This will continue to release arsenic in soluble form. The soil of a large proportion of the land planted to tobacco has been subjected to ‘cumulative and well-nigh permanent poisoning’, according to Dr. Satterlee. Tobacco grown in the eastern Mediterranean countries where arsenical insecticides are not used has shown no such increase in arsenic content.

We are therefore confronted with a second problem. We must not only be concerned with what is happening to the soil; we must wonder to what extent insecticides are absorbed from contaminated soils and introduced into plant tissues. Much depends on the type of soil, the crop, and the nature and concentration of the insecticide. Soil high in organic matter releases smaller quantities of poisons than others. Carrots absorb more insecticide than any other crop studied; if the chemical used happens to be lindane, carrots actually accumulate higher concentrations than are present in the soil. In the future it may become necessary to analyze soils for insecticides before planting certain food crops. Otherwise even unsprayed crops may take up enough insecticide merely from the soil to render them unfit for market.

This very sort of contamination has created endless problems for at least one leading manufacturer of baby foods who has been unwilling to buy any fruits or vegetables on which toxic insecticides have been used. The chemical that caused him the most trouble was benzene hexachloride (BHC), which is taken up by the roots and tubers of plants, advertising its presence by a musty taste and odor. Sweet potatoes grown on California fields where BHC had been used two years earlier contained residues and had to be rejected. In one year, in which the firm had contracted in South Carolina for its total requirements of sweet potatoes, so large a proportion of the acreage was found to be contaminated that the company was forced to buy in the open market at a considerable financial loss. Over the years a variety of fruits and vegetables, grown in various states, have had to be rejected. The most stubborn problems were concerned with peanuts. In the southern states peanuts are usually grown in rotation with cotton, on which BHC is extensively used. Peanuts grown later in this soil pick up considerable amounts of the insecticide. Actually, only a trace is enough to incorporate the telltale musty odor and taste. The chemical penetrates the nuts and cannot be removed. Processing, far from removing the mustiness, sometimes accentuates it. The only course open to a manufacturer determined to exclude BHC residues is to reject all produce treated with the chemical or grown on soils contaminated with it.

Sometimes the menace is to the crop itself—a menace that remains as long as the insecticide contamination is in the soil. Some insecticides affect sensitive plants such as beans, wheat, barley, or rye, retarding root development or depressing growth of seedlings. The experience of the hop growers in Washington and Idaho is an example. During the spring of 1955 many of these growers undertook a large-scale program to control the strawberry root weevil, whose larvae had become abundant on the roots of the hops. On the advice of agricultural experts and insecticide manufacturers, they chose heptachlor as the control agent. Within a year after the heptachlor was applied, the vines in the treated yards were wilting and dying. In the untreated fields there was no trouble; the damage stopped at the border between treated and untreated fields. The hills were replanted at great expense, but in another year the new roots, too, were found to be dead. Four years later the soil still contained heptachlor, and scientists were unable to predict how long it would remain poisonous, or to recommend any procedure for correcting the condition. The federal Department of Agriculture, which as late as March 1959 found itself in the anomalous position of declaring heptachlor to be acceptable for use on hops in the form of a soil treatment, belatedly withdrew its registration for such use. Meanwhile, the hop growers sought what redress they could in the courts.

As applications of pesticides continue and the virtually indestructible residues continue to build up in the soil, it is almost certain that we are heading for trouble. This was the consensus of a group of specialists who met at Syracuse University in 1960 to discuss the ecology of the soil. These men summed up the hazards of using ‘such potent and little understood tools’ as chemicals and radiation: ‘A few false moves on the part of man may result in destruction of soil productivity and the arthropods may well take over.’




6. Earth’s Green Mantle


WATER, SOIL, and the earth’s green mantle of plants make up the world that supports the animal life of the earth. Although modern man seldom remembers the fact, he could not exist without the plants that harness the sun’s energy and manufacture the basic foodstuffs he depends upon for life. Our attitude toward plants is a singularly narrow one. If we see any immediate utility in a plant we foster it. If for any reason we find its presence undesirable or merely a matter of indifference, we may condemn it to destruction forthwith. Besides the various plants that are poisonous to man or his livestock, or crowd out food plants, many are marked for destruction merely because, according to our narrow view, they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many others are destroyed merely because they happen to be associates of the unwanted plants.

The earth’s vegetation is part of a web of life in which there are intimate and essential relations between plants and the earth, between plants and other plants, between plants and animals. Sometimes we have no choice but to disturb these relationships, but we should do so thoughtfully, with full awareness that what we do may have consequences remote in time and place. But no such humility marks the booming ‘weed killer’ business of the present day, in which soaring sales and expanding uses mark the production of plant-killing chemicals.

One of the most tragic examples of our unthinking bludgeoning of the landscape is to be seen in the sagebrush lands of the West, where a vast campaign is on to destroy the sage and to substitute grasslands. If ever an enterprise needed to be illuminated with a sense of the history and meaning of the landscape, it is this. For here the natural landscape is eloquent of the interplay of forces that have created it. It is spread before us like the pages of an open book in which we can read why the land is what it is, and why we should preserve its integrity. But the pages lie unread.

The land of the sage is the land of the high western plains and the lower slopes of the mountains that rise above them, a land born of the great uplift of the Rocky Mountain system many millions of years ago. It is a place of harsh extremes of climate: of long winters when blizzards drive down from the mountains and snow lies deep on the plains, of summers whose heat is relieved by only scanty rains, with drought biting deep into the soil, and drying winds stealing moisture from leaf and stem.

As the landscape evolved, there must have been a long period of trial and error in which plants attempted the colonization of this high and windswept land. One after another must have failed. At last one group of plants evolved which combined all the qualities needed to survive. The sage—low-growing and shrubby—could hold its place on the mountain slopes and on the plains, and within its small gray leaves it could hold moisture enough to defy the thieving winds. It was no accident, but rather the result of long ages of experimentation by nature, that the great plains of the West became the land of the sage.

Along with the plants, animal life, too, was evolving in harmony with the searching requirements of the land. In time there were two as perfectly adjusted to their habitat as the sage. One was a mammal, the fleet and graceful pronghorn

antelope. The other was a bird, the sage grouse—the ‘cock of the plains’ of Lewis and Clark.

The sage and the grouse seem made for each other. The original range of the bird coincided with the range of the sage, and as the sagelands have been reduced, so the populations of grouse have dwindled. The sage is all things to these birds of the plains. The low sage of the foothill ranges shelters their nests and their young; the denser growths are loafing and roosting areas; at all times the sage provides the staple food of the grouse. Yet it is a two-way relationship. The spectacular courtship displays of the cocks help loosen the soil beneath and around the sage, aiding invasion by grasses which grow in the shelter of sagebrush.

The antelope, too, have adjusted their lives to the sage. They are primarily animals of the plains, and in winter when the first snows come those that have summered in the mountains move down to the lower elevations. There the sage provides the food that tides them over the winter. Where all other plants have shed their leaves, the sage remains evergreen, the gray-green leaves—bitter, aromatic, rich in proteins, fats, and needed minerals—clinging to the stems of the dense and shrubby plants. Though the snows pile up, the tops of the sage remain exposed, or can be reached by the sharp, pawing hoofs of the antelope. Then grouse feed on them too, finding them on bare and windswept ledges or following the antelope to feed where they have scratched away the snow.

And other life looks to the sage. Mule deer often feed on it. Sage may mean survival for winter-grazing livestock. Sheep graze many winter ranges where the big sagebrush forms almost pure stands. For half the year it is their principal forage, a plant of higher energy value than even alfalfa hay.

The bitter upland plains, the purple wastes of sage, the wild, swift antelope, and the grouse are then a natural system in perfect balance. Are? The verb must be changed—at least in those already vast and growing areas where man is attempting to improve on nature’s way. In the name of progress the land management agencies have set about to satisfy the insatiable demands of the cattlemen for more grazing land. By this they mean grassland—grass without sage. So in a land which nature found suited to grass growing mixed with and under the shelter of sage, it is now proposed to eliminate the sage and create unbroken grassland. Few seem to have asked whether grasslands are a stable and desirable goal in this region. Certainly nature’s own answer was otherwise. The annual precipitation in this land where the rains seldom fall is not enough to support good sod-forming grass; it favors rather the perennial bunchgrass that grows in the shelter of the sage.

Yet the program of sage eradication has been under way for a number of years. Several government agencies are active in it; industry has joined with enthusiasm to promote and encourage an enterprise which creates expanded markets not only for grass seed but for a large assortment of machines for cutting and plowing and seeding. The newest addition to

the weapons is the use of chemical sprays. Now millions of acres of sagebrush lands are sprayed each year.

What are the results? The eventual effects of eliminating sage and seeding with grass are largely conjectural. Men of long experience with the ways of the land say that in this country there is better growth of grass between and under the sage than can possibly be had in pure stands, once the moisture-holding sage is gone.

But even if the program succeeds in its immediate objective, it is clear that the whole closely knit fabric of life has been ripped apart. The antelope and the grouse will disappear along with the sage. The deer will suffer, too, and the land will be poorer for the destruction of the wild things that belong to it. Even the livestock which are the intended beneficiaries will suffer; no amount of lush green grass in summer can help the sheep starving in the winter storms for lack of the sage and bitterbrush and other wild vegetation of the plains.

These are the first and obvious effects. The second is of a kind that is always associated with the shotgun approach to nature: the spraying also eliminates a great many plants that were not its intended target. Justice William O. Douglas, in his recent book My Wilderness: East to Katahdin, has told of an appalling example of ecological destruction wrought by the United States Forest Service in the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming. Some 10,000 acres of sagelands were sprayed by the Service, yielding to pressure of cattlemen for more grasslands. The sage was killed, as intended. But so was the green, lifegiving ribbon of willows that traced its way across these plains, following the meandering streams. Moose had lived in these willow thickets, for willow is to the moose what sage is to the antelope. Beaver had lived there, too, feeding on the willows, felling them and making a strong dam across the tiny stream. Through the labor of the beavers, a lake backed up. Trout in the mountain streams seldom were more than six inches long; in the lake they thrived so prodigiously that many grew to five pounds. Waterfowl were attracted to the lake, also. Merely because of the presence of the willows and the beavers that depended on them, the region was an attractive recreational area with excellent fishing and hunting.

But with the ‘improvement’ instituted by the Forest Service, the willows went the way of the sagebrush, killed by the same impartial spray. When Justice Douglas visited the area in 1959, the year of the spraying, he was shocked to see the shriveled and dying willows—the ‘vast, incredible damage’. What would become of the moose? Of the beavers and the little world they had constructed? A year later he returned to read the answers in the devastated landscape. The moose were gone and so were the beaver. Their principal dam had gone out for want of attention by its skilled architects, and the lake had drained away. None of the large trout were left. None could live in the tiny creek that remained, threading its way through a bare, hot land where no shade remained. The living world was shattered.

.    .    .

Besides the more than four million acres of rangelands sprayed each year, tremendous areas of other types of land are also potential or actual recipients of chemical treatments for weed control. For example, an area larger than all of New England—some 50 million acres—is under management by utility corporations and much of it is routinely treated for ‘brush control’. In the Southwest an estimated 75 million acres of mesquite lands require management by some means, and chemical spraying is the method most actively pushed. An unknown but very large acreage of timber-producing lands is now aerially sprayed in order to ‘weed out’ the hardwoods from the more spray-resistant conifers. Treatment of agricultural lands with herbicides doubled in the decade following 1949, totaling 53 million acres in 1959. And the combined acreage of private lawns, parks, and golf courses now being treated must reach an astronomical figure.

The chemical weed killers are a bright new toy. They work in a spectacular way; they give a giddy sense of power over nature to those who wield them, and as for the long-range and less obvious effects—these are easily brushed aside as the baseless imaginings of pessimists. The ‘agricultural engineers’ speak blithely of ‘chemical plowing’ in a world that is urged to beat its plowshares into spray guns. The town fathers of a thousand communities lend willing ears to the chemical salesman and the eager contractors who will rid the roadsides of ‘brush’—for a price. It is cheaper than mowing, is the cry. So, perhaps, it appears in the neat rows of figures in the official books; but were the true costs entered, the costs not only in dollars but in the many equally valid debits we shall presently consider, the wholesale broadcasting of chemicals would be seen to be more costly in dollars as well as infinitely damaging to the long-range health of the landscape and to all the varied interests that depend on it.

Take, for instance, that commodity prized by every chamber of commerce throughout the land—the good will of vacationing tourists. There is a steadily growing chorus of outraged protest about the disfigurement of once beautiful roadsides by chemical sprays, which substitute a sere expanse of brown, withered vegetation for the beauty of fern and wild flower, of native shrubs adorned with blossom or berry. ‘We are making a dirty, brown, dying-looking mess along the sides of our roads,’ a New England woman wrote angrily to her newspaper. ‘This is not what the tourists expect, with all the money we are spending advertising the beautiful scenery.’

In the summer of 1960 conservationists from many states converged on a peaceful Maine island to witness its presentation to the National Audubon Society by its owner, Millicent Todd Bingham. The focus that day was on the preservation of the natural landscape and of the intricate web of life whose interwoven strands lead from microbes to man. But in the background of all the conversations among the visitors to the island was indignation at the despoiling of the roads they had traveled. Once it had been a joy to follow those roads through the evergreen forests, roads lined with bayberry and sweet fern, alder and huckleberry. Now all was brown desolation. One of the conservationists wrote of that August pilgrimage to a Maine island: ‘I returned…angry at the desecration of the Maine roadsides. Where, in previous years, the highways were bordered with wildflowers and attractive shrubs, there were only the scars of dead vegetation for mile after mile…As an economic proposition, can Maine afford the loss of tourist goodwill that such sights induce?’Maine roadsides are merely one example, though a particularly sad one for those of us who have a deep love for the beauty of that state, of the senseless destruction that is going on in the name of roadside brush control throughout the nation.

Botanists at the Connecticut Arboretum declare that the elimination of beautiful native shrubs and wildflowers has reached the proportions of a ‘roadside crisis’. Azaleas, mountain laurel, blueberries, huckleberries, viburnums, dogwood, bayberry, sweet fern, low shadbush, winterberry, chokecherry, and wild plum are dying before the chemical barrage. So are the daisies, black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrods, and fall asters which lend grace and beauty to the landscape.

The spraying is not only improperly planned but studded with abuses such as these. In a southern New England town one contractor finished his work with some chemical remaining in his tank. He discharged this along woodland roadsides where no spraying had been authorized. As a result the community lost the blue and golden beauty of its autumn roads, where asters and goldenrod would have made a display worth traveling far to see. In another New England community a contractor changed the state specifications for town spraying without the knowledge of the highway department and sprayed roadside vegetation to a height of eight feet instead of the specified maximum of four feet, leaving a broad, disfiguring, brown swath. In a Massachusetts community the town officials purchased a weed killer from a zealous chemical salesman, unaware that it contained arsenic. One result of the subsequent roadside spraying was the death of a dozen cows from arsenic poisoning.

Trees within the Connecticut Arboretum Natural Area were seriously injured when the town of Waterford sprayed the roadsides with chemical weed killers in 1957. Even large trees not directly sprayed were affected. The leaves of the oaks began to curl and turn brown, although it was the season for spring growth. Then new shoots began to be put forth and grew with abnormal rapidity, giving a weeping appearance to the trees. Two seasons later, large branches on these trees had died, others were without leaves, and the deformed, weeping effect of whole trees persisted.

I know well a stretch of road where nature’s own landscaping has provided a border of alder, viburnum, sweet fern, and juniper with seasonally changing accents of bright flowers, or of fruits hanging in jeweled clusters in the fall. The road had no heavy load of traffic to support; there were few sharp curves or intersections where brush could obstruct the driver’s vision. But the sprayers took over and the miles along that road became something to be traversed quickly, a sight to be endured with one’s mind closed to thoughts of the sterile and hideous world we are letting our technicians make. But here and there authority had somehow faltered and by an unaccountable oversight there were oases of beauty in the midst of austere and regimented control—oases that made the desecration of the greater part of the road the more unbearable. In such places my spirit lifted to the sight of the drifts of white clover or the clouds of purple vetch with here

and there the flaming cup of a wood lily.

Such plants are ‘weeds’ only to those who make a business of selling and applying chemicals. In a volume of Proceedings of one of the weed-control conferences that are now regular institutions, I once read an extraordinary statement of a weed killer’s philosophy. The author defended the killing of good plants ‘simply because they are in bad company.’ Those who complain about killing wildflowers along roadsides reminded him, he said, of antivivisectionists ‘to whom, if one were to judge by their actions, the life of a stray dog is more sacred than the lives of children.’

To the author of this paper, many of us would unquestionably be suspect, convicted of some deep perversion of character because we prefer the sight of the vetch and the clover and the wood lily in all their delicate and transient beauty to that of roadsides scorched as by fire, the shrubs brown and brittle, the bracken that once lifted high its proud lacework now withered and drooping. We would seem deplorably weak that we can tolerate the sight of such ‘weeds’, that we do not rejoice in their eradication, that we are not filled with exultation that man has once more triumphed over miscreant nature.

Justice Douglas tells of attending a meeting of federal field men who were discussing protests by citizens against plans for the spraying of sagebrush that I mentioned earlier in this chapter. These men considered it hilariously funny that an old lady had opposed the plan because the wildflowers would be destroyed. ‘Yet, was not her right to search out a banded cup or a tiger lily as inalienable as the right of stockmen to search out grass or of a lumberman to claim a tree?’ asks this humane and perceptive jurist. ‘The esthetic values of the wilderness are as much our inheritance as the veins of copper and gold in our hills and the forests in our mountains.’

There is of course more to the wish to preserve our roadside vegetation than even such esthetic considerations. In the economy of nature the natural vegetation has its essential place. Hedgerows along country roads and bordering fields provide food, cover, and nesting areas for birds and homes for many small animals. Of some 70 species of shrubs and vines that are typical roadside species in the eastern states alone, about 65 are important to wildlife as food.

Such vegetation is also the habitat of wild bees and other pollinating insects. Man is more dependent on these wild pollinators than he usually realizes. Even the farmer himself seldom understands the value of wild bees and often participates in the very measures that rob him of their services. Some agricultural crops and many wild plants are partly or wholly dependent on the services of the native pollinating insects. Several hundred species of wild bees take part in the pollination of cultivated crops—100 species visiting the flowers of alfalfa alone. Without insect pollination, most of the soil-holding and soil-enriching plants of uncultivated areas would die out, with far-reaching consequences to the ecology of the whole region. Many herbs, shrubs, and trees of forests and range depend on native insects for their reproduction; without these plants many wild animals and range stock would find little food. Now clean cultivation and the chemical destruction of hedgerows and weeds are eliminating the last sanctuaries of these pollinating insects and breaking the

threads that bind life to life.

These insects, so essential to our agriculture and indeed to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat. Honeybees and wild bees depend heavily on such ‘weeds’ as goldenrod, mustard, and dandelions for pollen that serves as the food of their young. Vetch furnishes essential spring forage for bees before the alfalfa is in bloom, tiding them over this early season so that they are ready to pollinate the alfalfa. In the fall they depend on goldenrod at a season when no other food is available, to stock up for the winter. By the precise and delicate timing that is nature’s own, the emergence of one species of wild bees takes place on the very day of the opening of the willow blossoms. There is no dearth of men who understand these things, but these are not the men who order the wholesale drenching of the landscape with chemicals.

And where are the men who supposedly understand the value of proper habitat for the preservation of wildlife? Too many of them are to be found defending herbicides as ‘harmless’ to wildlife because they are thought to be less toxic than insecticides. Therefore, it is said, no harm is done. But as the herbicides rain down on forest and field, on marsh and rangeland, they are bringing about marked changes and even permanent destruction of wildlife habitat. To destroy the homes and the food of wildlife is perhaps worse in the long run than direct killing.

The irony of this all-out chemical assault on roadsides and utility rights-of-way is twofold. It is perpetuating the problem it seeks to correct, for as experience has clearly shown, the blanket application of herbicides does not permanently control roadside ‘brush’ and the spraying has to be repeated year after year. And as a further irony, we persist in doing this despite the fact that a perfectly sound method of selective spraying is known, which can achieve long-term vegetational control and eliminate repeated spraying in most types of vegetation.

The object of brush control along roads and rights-of-way is not to sweep the land clear of everything but grass; it is, rather, to eliminate plants ultimately tall enough to present an obstruction to drivers’ vision or interference with wires on rights-of-way. This means, in general, trees. Most shrubs are low enough to present no hazard; so, certainly, are ferns and wildflowers.

Selective spraying was developed by Dr. Frank Egler during a period of years at the American Museum of Natural History as director of a Committee for Brush Control Recommendations for Rights-of-Way. It took advantage of the inherent stability of nature, building on the fact that most communities of shrubs are strongly resistant to invasion by trees. By comparison, grasslands are easily invaded by tree seedlings. The object of selective spraying is not to produce grass on roadsides and rights-of-way but to eliminate the tall woody plants by direct treatment and to preserve all other vegetation. One treatment may be sufficient, with a possible follow-up for extremely resistant species; thereafter the shrubs assert control and the trees do not return. The best and cheapest controls for vegetation are not chemicals but

other plants.

The method has been tested in research areas scattered throughout the eastern United States. Results show that once properly treated, an area becomes stabilized, requiring no respraying for at least 20 years. The spraying can often be done by men on foot, using knapsack sprayers, and having complete control over their material. Sometimes compressor pumps and material can be mounted on truck chassis, but there is no blanket spraying. Treatment is directed only to trees and any exceptionally tall shrubs that must be eliminated. The integrity of the environment is thereby preserved, the enormous value of the wildlife habitat remains intact, and the beauty of shrub and fern and wildflower has not been sacrificed.

Here and there the method of vegetation management by selective spraying has been adopted. For the most part, entrenched custom dies hard and blanket spraying continues to thrive, to exact its heavy annual costs from the taxpayer, and to inflict its damage on the ecological web of life. It thrives, surely, only because the facts are not known. When taxpayers understand that the bill for spraying the town roads should come due only once a generation instead of once a year, they will surely rise up and demand a change of method.

Among the many advantages of selective spraying is the fact that it minimizes the amount of chemical applied to the landscape. There is no broadcasting of material but, rather, concentrated application to the base of the trees. The potential harm to wildlife is therefore kept to a minimum.

The most widely used herbicides are 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, and related compounds. Whether or not these are actually toxic is a matter of controversy. People spraying their lawns with 2,4-D and becoming wet with spray have occasionally developed severe neuritis and even paralysis. Although such incidents are apparently uncommon, medical authorities advise caution in use of such compounds. Other hazards, more obscure, may also attend the rise of 2,4-D. It has been shown experimentally to disturb the basic physiological process of respiration in the cell, and to imitate X-rays in damaging the chromosomes. Some very recent work indicates that reproduction of birds may be adversely affected by these and certain other herbicides at levels far below those that cause death.

Apart from any directly toxic effects, curious indirect results follow the use of certain herbicides. It has been found that animals, both wild herbivores and livestock, are sometimes strangely attracted to a plant that has been sprayed, even though it is not one of their natural foods. If a highly poisonous herbicide such as arsenic has been used, this intense desire to reach the wilting vegetation inevitably has disastrous results. Fatal results may follow, also, from less toxic herbicides if the plant itself happens to be poisonous or perhaps to possess thorns or burs. Poisonous range weeds, for example, have suddenly become attractive to livestock after spraying, and the animals have died from indulging this unnatural appetite. The literature of veterinary medicine abounds in similar examples: swine eating sprayed cockleburs with consequent severe illness, lambs eating sprayed thistles, bees poisoned by pasturing on mustard sprayed after it came into bloom. Wild cherry, the leaves of which are highly poisonous, has exerted a fatal attraction for cattle once its foliage has been sprayed with 2,4-D. Apparently the wilting that follows spraying (or cutting) makes the plant attractive. Ragwort has provided other examples. Livestock ordinarily avoid this plant unless forced to turn to it in late winter and early spring by lack of other forage. However, the animals eagerly feed on it after its foliage has been sprayed with 2,4-D.

The explanation of this peculiar behavior sometimes appears to lie in the changes which the chemical brings about in the metabolism of the plant itself. There is temporarily a marked increase in sugar content, making the plant more attractive to many animals.

Another curious effect of 2,4-D has important effects for livestock, wildlife, and apparently for men as well. Experiments carried out about a decade ago showed that after treatment with this chemical there is a sharp increase in the nitrate content of corn and of sugar beets. The same effect was suspected in sorghum, sunflower, spiderwort, lambs quarters, pigweed, and smartweed. Some of these are normally ignored by cattle, but are eaten with relish after treatment with 2,4-D. A number of deaths among cattle have been traced to sprayed weeds, according to some agricultural specialists. The danger lies in the increase in nitrates, for the peculiar physiology of the ruminant at once poses a critical problem. Most such animals have a digestive system of extraordinary complexity, including a stomach divided into four chambers. The digestion of cellulose is accomplished through the action of micro-organisms (rumen bacteria) in one of the chambers. When the animal feeds on vegetation containing an abnormally high level of nitrates, the micro-organisms in the rumen act on the nitrates to change them into highly toxic nitrites. Thereafter a fatal chain of events ensues: the nitrites act on the blood pigment to form a chocolate-brown substance in which the oxygen is so firmly held that it cannot take part in respiration, hence oxygen is not transferred from the lungs to the tissues. Death occurs within a few hours from anoxia, or lack of oxygen. The various reports of livestock losses after grazing on certain weeds treated with 2,4-D therefore have a logical explanation. The same danger exists for wild animals belonging to the group of ruminants, such as deer, antelope, sheep, and goats.

Although various factors (such as exceptionally dry weather) can cause an increase in nitrate content, the effect of the soaring sales and applications of 2,4-D cannot be ignored. The situation was considered important enough by the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station to justify a warning in 1957 that ‘plants killed by 2,4-D may contain large amounts of nitrate.’ The hazard extends to human beings as well as animals and may help to explain the recent mysterious increase in ‘silo deaths’. When corn, oats, or sorghum containing large amounts of nitrates are ensiled they release poisonous nitrogen oxide gases, creating a deadly hazard to anyone entering the silo. Only a few breaths of one of these gases can cause a diffuse chemical pneumonia. In a series of such cases studied by the University of

Minnesota Medical School all but one terminated fatally.

.    .    .

‘Once again we are walking in nature like an elephant in the china cabinet.’ So C. J. Briejèr, a Dutch scientist of rare understanding, sums up our use of weed killers. ‘In my opinion too much is taken for granted. We do not know whether all weeds in crops are harmful or whether some of them are useful,’ says Dr. Briejèr.

Seldom is the question asked, What is the relation between the weed and the soil? Perhaps, even from our narrow standpoint of direct self-interest, the relation is a useful one. As we have seen, soil and the living things in and upon it exist in a relation of interdependence and mutual benefit. Presumably the weed is taking something from the soil; perhaps it is also contributing something to it. A practical example was provided recently by the parks in a city in Holland. The roses were doing badly. Soil samples showed heavy infestations by tiny nematode worms. Scientists of the Dutch Plant Protection Service did not recommend chemical sprays or soil treatments; instead, they suggested that marigolds be planted among the roses. This plant, which the purist would doubtless consider a weed in any rosebed, releases an excretion from its roots that kills the soil nematodes. The advice was taken; some beds were planted with marigolds, some left without as controls. The results were striking. With the aid of the marigolds the roses flourished; in the control beds they were sickly and drooping. Marigolds are now used in many places for combating nematodes.

In the same way, and perhaps quite unknown to us, other plants that we ruthlessly eradicate may be performing a function that is necessary to the health of the soil. One very useful function of natural plant communities—now pretty generally stigmatized as ‘weeds’—is to serve as an indicator of the condition of the soil. This useful function is of course lost where chemical weed killers have been used.

Those who find an answer to all problems in spraying also overlook a matter of great scientific importance—the need to preserve some natural plant communities. We need these as a standard against which we can measure the changes our own activities bring about. We need them as wild habitats in which original populations of insects and other organisms can be maintained, for, as will be explained in Chapter 16, the development of resistance to insecticides is changing the genetic factors of insects and perhaps other organisms. One scientist has even suggested that some sort of ‘zoo’ should be established to preserve insects, mites, and the like, before their genetic composition is further changed.

Some experts warn of subtle but far-reaching vegetational shifts as a result of the growing use of herbicides. The chemical 2,4-D, by killing out the broad-leaved plants, allows the grasses to thrive in the reduced competition—now some of the grasses themselves have become ‘weeds’, presenting a new problem in control and giving the cycle another turn. This strange situation is acknowledged in a recent issue of a journal devoted to crop problems: ‘With the widespread use of 2,4-D to control broadleaved weeds, grass weeds in particular have increasingly become a threat to corn and soybean yields.’

Ragweed, the bane of hay fever sufferers, offers an interesting example of the way efforts to control nature sometimes boomerang. Many thousands of gallons of chemicals have been discharged along roadsides in the name of ragweed control. But the unfortunate truth is that blanket spraying is resulting in more ragweed, not less. Ragweed is an annual; its seedlings require open soil to become established each year. Our best protection against this plant is therefore the maintenance of dense shrubs, ferns, and other perennial vegetation. Spraying frequently destroys this protective vegetation and creates open, barren areas which the ragweed hastens to fill. It is probable, moreover, that the pollen content of the atmosphere is not related to roadside ragweed, but to the ragweed of city lots and fallow fields.

The booming sales of chemical crabgrass killers are another example of how readily unsound methods catch on. There is a cheaper and better way to remove crabgrass than to attempt year after year to kill it out with chemicals. This is to give it competition of a kind it cannot survive, the competition of other grass. Crabgrass exists only in an unhealthy lawn. It is a symptom, not a disease in itself. By providing a fertile soil and giving the desired grasses a good start, it is possible to create an environment in which crabgrass cannot grow, for it requires open space in which it can start from seed year after year.

Instead of treating the basic condition, suburbanites—advised by nurserymen who in turn have been advised by the chemical manufacturers—continue to apply truly astonishing amounts of crabgrass killers to their lawns each year. Marketed under trade names which give no hint of their nature, many of these preparations contain such poisons as mercury, arsenic, and chlordane. Application at the recommended rates leaves tremendous amounts of these chemicals on the lawn. Users of one product, for example, apply 60 pounds of technical chlordane to the acre if they follow directions. If they use another of the many available products, they are applying 175 pounds of metallic arsenic to the acre. The toll of dead birds, as we shall see in Chapter 8, is distressing. How lethal these lawns may be for human beings is unknown.

The success of selective spraying for roadside and right-of-way vegetation, where it has been practiced, offers hope that equally sound ecological methods may be developed for other vegetation programs for farms, forests, and ranges— methods aimed not at destroying a particular species but at managing vegetation as a living community.

Other solid achievements show what can be done. Biological control has achieved some of its most spectacular successes in the area of curbing unwanted vegetation. Nature herself has met many of the problems that now beset us, and she has usually solved them in her own successful way. Where man has been intelligent enough to observe and to emulate Nature he, too, is often rewarded with success.

An outstanding example in the field of controlling unwanted plants is the handling of the Klamath-weed problem in

California. Although the Klamath weed, or goatweed, is a native of Europe (where it is called St. Johnswort), it accompanied man in his westward migrations, first appearing in the United States in 1793 near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. By 1900 it had reached California in the vicinity of the Klamath River, hence the name locally given to it. By 1929 it had occupied about 100,000 acres of rangeland, and by 1952 it had invaded some two and one half million acres.

Klamath weed, quite unlike such native plants as sagebrush, has no place in the ecology of the region, and no animals or other plants require its presence. On the contrary, wherever it appeared livestock became ‘scabby, sore-mouthed, and unthrifty’ from feeding on this toxic plant. Land values declined accordingly, for the Klamath weed was considered to hold the first mortgage.  

In Europe the Klamath weed, or St. Johnswort, has never become a problem because along with the plant there have developed various species of insects; these feed on it so extensively that its abundance is severely limited. In particular, two species of beetles in southern France, pea-sized and of metallic colour have their whole beings so adapted to the presence of the weed that they feed and reproduce only upon it.

It was an event of historic importance when the first shipments of these beetles were brought to the United States in 1944, for this was the first attempt in North America to control a plant with a plant-eating insect. By 1948 both species had become so well established that no further importations were needed. Their spread was accomplished by collecting beetle from the original colonies and redistributing them at the rate of millions a year. Within small areas the beetles accomplish their own dispersion, moving on as soon as the Klamath weed dies out and locating new stands with great precision. And as the beetles thin out the weed, desirable range plants that have been crowded out are able to return.

A ten-year survey completed in 1959 showed that control of the Klamath weed had been ‘more effective than hoped for even by enthusiasts’, with the weed reduced to a mere 1 per cent of its former abundance. This token infestation is harmless and is actually needed in order to maintain a population of beetles as protection against a future increase in the weed.

Another extraordinarily successful and economical example of weed control may be found in Australia. With the colonists’ usual taste for carrying plants or animals into a new country, a Captain Arthur Phillip had brought various species of cactus into Australia about 1787, intending to use them in culturing cochineal insects for dye. Some of the cacti or prickly pears escaped from his gardens and by 1925 about 20 species could be found growing wild. Having no natural controls in this new territory, they spread prodigiously, eventually occupying about 60 million acres. At least half of this land was so densely covered as to be useless.

In 1920 Australian entomologists were sent to North and South America to study insect enemies of the prickly pears in their native habitat. After trials of several species, 3 billion eggs of an Argentine moth were released in Australia in 1930.

Seven years later the last dense growth of the prickly pear had been destroyed and the once uninhabitable areas reopened to settlement and grazing. The whole operation had cost less than a penny per acre. In contrast, the unsatisfactory attempts at chemical control in earlier years had cost about £10 per acre.

Both of these examples suggest that extremely effective control of many kinds of unwanted vegetation might be achieved by paying more attention to the role of plant-eating insects. The science of range management has largely ignored this possibility, although these insects are perhaps the most selective of all grazers and their highly restricted diets could easily be turned to man’s advantage.



7. Needless Havoc


AS MAN PROCEEDS toward his announced goal of the conquest of nature, he has written a depressing record of destruction, directed not only against the earth he inhabits but against the life that shares it with him. The history of the recent centuries has its black passages—the slaughter of the buffalo on the western plains, the massacre of the shorebirds by the market gunners, the near-extermination of the egrets for their plumage. Now, to these and others like them, we are adding a new chapter and a new kind of havoc—the direct killing of birds, mammals, fishes, and indeed practically every form of wildlife by chemical insecticides indiscriminately sprayed on the land.

Under the philosophy that now seems to guide our destinies, nothing must get in the way of the man with the spray gun. The incidental victims of his crusade against insects count as nothing; if robins, pheasants, raccoons, cats, or even livestock happen to inhabit the same bit of earth as the target insects and to be hit by the rain of insect-killing poisons no one must protest.

The citizen who wishes to make a fair judgment of the question of wildlife loss is today confronted with a dilemma. On the one hand conservationists and many wildlife biologists assert that the losses have been severe and in some cases even catastrophic. On the other hand the control agencies tend to deny flatly and categorically that such losses have occurred, or that they are of any importance if they have. Which view are we to accept?

The credibility of the witness is of first importance. The professional wildlife biologist on the scene is certainly best qualified to discover and interpret wildlife loss. The entomologist, whose specialty is insects, is not so qualified by training, and is not psychologically disposed to look for undesirable side effects of his control program. Yet it is the control men in state and federal governments—and of course the chemical manufacturers—who steadfastly deny the facts reported by the biologists and declare they see little evidence of harm to wildlife. Like the priest and the Levite in the biblical story, they choose to pass by on the other side and to see nothing. Even if we charitably explain their denials as due to the shortsightedness of the specialist and the man with an interest this does not mean we must accept them as qualified witnesses.

The best way to form our own judgment is to look at some of the major control programs and learn, from observers familiar with the ways of wildlife, and unbiased in favor of chemicals, just what has happened in the wake of a rain of poison falling from the skies into the world of wildlife.

To the bird watcher, the suburbanite who derives joy from birds in his garden, the hunter, the fisherman or the explorer of wild regions, anything that destroys the wildlife of an area for even a single year has deprived him of pleasure to which he has a legitimate right. This is a valid point of view. Even if, as has sometimes happened, some of the birds and mammals and fishes are able to re-establish themselves after a single spraying, a great and real harm has been done.

But such reestablishment is unlikely to happen. Spraying tends to be repetitive, and a single exposure from which the wildlife populations might have a chance to recover is a rarity. What usually results is a poisoned environment, a lethal trap in which not only the resident populations succumb but those who come in as migrants as well. The larger the area sprayed the more serious the harm, because no oases of safety remain. Now, in a decade marked by insect-control programs in which many thousands or even millions of acres are sprayed as a unit, a decade in which private and community spraying has also surged steadily upward, a record of destruction and death of American wildlife has accumulated. Let us look at some of these programs and see what has happened.

During the fall of 1959 some 27,000 acres in southeastern Michigan, including numerous suburbs of Detroit, were heavily dusted from the air with pellets of aldrin, one of the most dangerous of all the chlorinated hydrocarbons. The program was conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture with the cooperation of the United States Department of Agriculture; its announced purpose was control of the Japanese beetle.

Little need was shown for this drastic and dangerous action. On the contrary, Walter P. Nickell, one of the best-known and best-informed naturalists in the state, who spends much of his time in the field with long periods in southern Michigan every summer, declared: ‘For more than thirty years, to my direct knowledge, the Japanese beetle has been present in the city of Detroit in small numbers. The numbers have not shown any appreciable increase in all this lapse of years. I have yet to see a single Japanese beetle [in 1959] other than the few caught in Government catch traps in Detroit…Everything is being kept so secret that I have not yet been able to obtain any information whatsoever to the effect that they have increased in numbers.’

An official release by the state agency merely declared that the beetle had ‘put in its appearance’ in the areas designated for the aerial attack upon it. Despite the lack of justification the program was launched, with the state providing the manpower and supervising the operation, the federal government providing equipment and additional

men, and the communities paying for the insecticide.

The Japanese beetle, an insect accidentally imported into the United States, was discovered in New Jersey in 1916, when a few shiny beetles of a metallic green color were seen in a nursery near Riverton. The beetles, at first unrecognized, were finally identified as a common inhabitant of the main islands of Japan. Apparently they had entered the United States on nursery stock imported before restrictions were established in 1912.

From its original point of entrance the Japanese beetle has spread rather widely throughout many of the states east of the Mississippi, where conditions of temperature and rainfall are suitable for it. Each year some outward movement beyond the existing boundaries of its distribution usually takes place. In the eastern areas where the beetles have been longest established, attempts have been made to set up natural controls. Where this has been done, the beetle populations have been kept at relatively low levels, as many records attest.

Despite the record of reasonable control in eastern areas, the midwestern states now on the fringe of the beetle’s range have launched an attack worthy of the most deadly enemy instead of only a moderately destructive insect, employing the most dangerous chemicals distributed in a manner that exposes large numbers of people, their domestic animals, and all wildlife to the poison intended for the beetle. As a result these Japanese beetle programs have caused shocking destruction of animal life and have exposed human beings to undeniable hazard. Sections of Michigan, Kentucky, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri are all experiencing a rain of chemicals in the name of beetle control.

The Michigan spraying was one of the first large-scale attacks on the Japanese beetle from the air. The choice of aldrin, one of the deadliest of all chemicals, was not determined by any peculiar suitability for Japanese beetle control, but simply by the wish to save money—aldrin was the cheapest of the compounds available. While the state in its official release to the press acknowledged that aldrin is a ‘poison’, it implied that no harm could come to human beings in the heavily populated areas to which the chemical was applied. (The official answer to the query ‘What precautions should I take?’ was ‘For you, none.’) An official of the Federal Aviation Agency was later quoted in the local press to the effect that ‘this is a safe operation’ and a representative of the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation added his assurance that ‘the dust is harmless to humans and will not hurt plants or pets.’ One must assume that none of these officials had consulted the published and readily available reports of the United States Public Health Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and other evidence of the extremely poisonous nature of aldrin.

Acting under the Michigan pest control law which allows the state to spray indiscriminately without notifying or gaining permission of individual landowners, the low-lying planes began to fly over the Detroit area. The city authorities and the Federal Aviation Agency were immediately besieged by calls from worried citizens. After receiving nearly 800

calls in a single hour, the police begged radio and television stations and newspapers to ‘tell the watchers what they were seeing and advise them it was safe,’ according to the Detroit News. The Federal Aviation Agency’s safety officer assured the public that ‘the planes are carefully supervised’ and ‘are authorized to fly low.’ In a somewhat mistaken attempt to allay fears, he added that the planes had emergency valves that would allow them to dump their entire load instantaneously. This, fortunately, was not done, but as the planes went about their work the pellets of insecticide fell on beetles and humans alike, showers of ‘harmless’ poison descending on people shopping or going to work and on children out from school for the lunch hour. Housewives swept the granules from porches and sidewalks, where they are said to have ‘looked like snow’. As pointed out later by the Michigan Audubon Society, ‘In the spaces between shingles on roofs, in eaves-troughs, in the cracks in bark and twigs, the little white pellets of aldrin-and-clay, no bigger than a pin head, were lodged by the millions…When the snow and rain came, every puddle became a possible death potion.’

Within a few days after the dusting operation, the Detroit Audubon Society began receiving calls about the birds. According to the Society’s secretary, Mrs. Ann Boyes, ‘The first indication that the people were concerned about the spray was a call I received on Sunday morning from a woman who reported that coming home from church she saw an alarming number of dead and dying birds. The spraying there had been done on Thursday. She said there were no birds at all flying in the area, that she had found at least a dozen [dead] in her backyard and that the neighbors had found dead squirrels.’ All other calls received by Mrs. Boyes that day reported ‘a great many dead birds and no live ones… People who had maintained bird feeders said there were no birds at all at their feeders.’ Birds picked up in a dying condition showed the typical symptoms of insecticide poisoning—tremoring, loss of ability to fly, paralysis, convulsions.

Nor were birds the only forms of life immediately affected. A local veterinarian reported that his office was full of clients with dogs and cats that had suddenly sickened. Cats, who so meticulously groom their coats and lick their paws, seemed to be most affected. Their illness took the form of severe diarrhea, vomiting, and convulsions. The only advice the veterinarian could give his clients was not to let the animals out unnecessarily, or to wash the paws promptly if they did so. (But the chlorinated hydrocarbons cannot be washed even from fruits or vegetables, so little protection could be expected from this measure.)

Despite the insistence of the City-County Health Commissioner that the birds must have been killed by ‘some other kind of spraying’ and that the outbreak of throat and chest irritations that followed the exposure to aldrin must have been due to ‘something else’, the local Health Department received a constant stream of complaints. A prominent Detroit internist was called upon to treat four of his patients within an hour after they had been exposed while watching the planes at work. All had similar symptoms: nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, extreme fatigue, and coughing.

The Detroit experience has been repeated in many other communities as pressure has mounted to combat the Japanese

beetle with chemicals. At Blue Island, Illinois, hundreds of dead and dying birds were picked up. Data collected by birdbanders here suggest that 80 per cent of the songbirds were sacrificed. In Joliet, Illinois, some 3000 acres were treated with heptachlor in 1959. According to reports from a local sportsmen’s club, the bird population within the treated area was ‘virtually wiped out’. Dead rabbits, muskrats, opossums, and fish were also found in numbers, and one of the local schools made the collection of insecticide-poisoned birds a science project.

.    .    .

Perhaps no community has suffered more for the sake of a beetleless world than Sheldon, in eastern Illinois, and adjacent areas in Iroquois County. In 1954 the United States Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Agriculture Department began a program to eradicate the Japanese beetle along the line of its advance into Illinois, holding out the hope, and indeed the assurance, that intensive spraying would destroy the populations of the invading insect. The first ‘eradication’ took place that year, when dieldrin was applied to 1400 acres by air. Another 2600 acres were treated similarly in 1955, and the task was presumably considered complete. But more and more chemical treatments were called for, and by the end of 1961 some 131,000 acres had been covered. Even in the first years of the program it was apparent that heavy losses were occurring among wildlife and domestic animals. The chemical treatments were continued, nevertheless, without consultation with either the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or the Illinois Game Management Division. (In the spring of 1960, however, officials of the federal Department of Agriculture appeared before a congressional committee in opposition to a bill that would require just such prior consultation. They declared blandly that the bill was unnecessary because cooperation and consultation were ‘usual’. These officials were quite unable to recall situations where cooperation had not taken place ‘at the Washington level’. In the same hearings they stated clearly their unwillingness to consult with state fish and game departments.)

Although funds for chemical control came in never-ending streams, the biologists of the Illinois Natural History Survey who attempted to measure the damage to wildlife had to operate on a financial shoestring. A mere $1100 was available for the employment of a field assistant in 1954 and no special funds were provided in 1955. Despite these crippling difficulties, the biologists assembled facts that collectively paint a picture of almost unparalleled wildlife destruction—destruction that became obvious as soon as the program got under way.

Conditions were made to order for poisoning insect-eating birds, both in the poisons used and in the events set in motion by their application. In the early programs at Sheldon, dieldrin was applied at the rate of 3 pounds to the acre. To understand its effect on birds one need only remember that in laboratory experiments on quail dieldrin has proved to be about 50 times as poisonous as DDT. The poison spread over the landscape at Sheldon was therefore roughly equivalent to 150 pounds of DDT per acre! And this was a minimum, because there seems to have been some overlapping of treatments along field borders and in corners.

As the chemical penetrated the soil the poisoned beetle grubs crawled out on the surface of the ground, where they remained for some time before they died, attractive to insect-eating birds. Dead and dying insects of various species were conspicuous for about two weeks after the treatment. The effect on the bird populations could easily have been foretold. Brown thrashers, starlings, meadowlarks, grackles, and pheasants were virtually wiped out. Robins were ‘almost annihilated’, according to the biologists’ report. Dead earthworms had been seen in numbers after a gentle rain; probably the robins had fed on the poisoned worms. For other birds, too, the once beneficial rain had been changed, through the evil power of the poison introduced into their world, into an agent of destruction. Birds seen drinking and bathing in puddles left by rain a few days after the spraying were inevitably doomed.

The birds that survived may have been rendered sterile. Although a few nests were found in the treated area, a few with eggs, none contained young birds.

Among the mammals ground squirrels were virtually annihilated; their bodies were found in attitudes characteristic of violent death by poisoning. Dead muskrats were found in the treated areas, dead rabbits in the fields. The fox squirrel had been a relatively common animal in the town; after the spraying it was gone.

It was a rare farm in the Sheldon area that was blessed by the presence of a cat after the war on beetles was begun. Ninety per cent of all the farm cats fell victims to the dieldrin during the first season of spraying. This might have been predicted because of the black record of these poisons in other places. Cats are extremely sensitive to all insecticides and especially so, it seems, to dieldrin. In western Java in the course of the antimalarial program carried out by the World Health Organization, many cats are reported to have died. In central Java so many were killed that the price of a cat more than doubled. Similarly, the World Health Organization, spraying in Venezuela, is reported to have reduced cats to the status of a rare animal.

In Sheldon it was not only the wild creatures and the domestic companions that were sacrificed in the campaign against an insect. Observations on several flocks of sheep and a herd of beef cattle are indicative of the poisoning and death that threatened livestock as well. The Natural History Survey report describes one of these episodes as follows:

The sheep…were driven into a small, untreated bluegrass pasture across a gravel road from a field which had been treated with dieldrin spray on May 6. Evidently some spray had drifted across the road into the pasture, for the sheep began to show symptoms of intoxication almost at once…They lost interest in food and displayed extreme restlessness, following the pasture fence around and around apparently searching for a way out…They refused to be driven, bleated almost continuously, and stood with their heads lowered; they were finally carried from the pasture…They displayed great desire for water. Two of the sheep were found dead in the stream passing through the pasture, and the remaining sheep were repeatedly driven out of the stream, several having to be dragged forcibly from the water. Three of the

sheep eventually died; those remaining recovered to all outward appearances.

This, then, was the picture at the end of 1955. Although the chemical war went on in succeeding years, the trickle of research funds dried up completely. Requests for money for wildlife-insecticide research were included in annual budgets submitted to the Illinois legislature by the Natural History Survey, but were invariably among the first items to be eliminated. It was not until 1960 that money was somehow found to pay the expenses of one field assistant—to do work that could easily have occupied the time of four men.

The desolate picture of wildlife loss had changed little when the biologists resumed the studies broken off in 1955. In the meantime, the chemical had been changed to the even more toxic aldrin, 100 to 300 times as toxic as DDT in tests on quail. By 1960, every species of wild mammal known to inhabit the area had suffered losses. It was even worse with the birds. In the small town of Donovan the robins had been wiped out, as had the grackles, starlings, and brown thrashers. These and many other birds were sharply reduced elsewhere. Pheasant hunters felt the effects of the beetle campaign sharply. The number of broods produced on treated lands fell off by some 50 per cent, and the number of young in a brood declined. Pheasant hunting, which had been good in these areas in former years, was virtually abandoned as unrewarding.

In spite of the enormous havoc that had been wrought in the name of eradicating the Japanese beetle, the treatment of more than 100,000 acres in Iroquois County over an eight-year period seems to have resulted in only temporary suppression of the insect, which continues its westward movement. The full extent of the toll that has been taken by this largely ineffective program may never be known, for the results measured by the Illinois biologists are a minimum figure. If the research program had been adequately financed to permit full coverage, the destruction revealed would have been even more appalling. But in the eight years of the program, only about $6000 was provided for biological field studies. Meanwhile the federal government had spent about $375,000 for control work and additional thousands had been provided by the state. The amount spent for research was therefore a small fraction of 1 per cent of the outlay for the chemical program.

These midwestern programs have been conducted in a spirit of crisis, as though the advance of the beetle presented an extreme peril justifying any means to combat it. This of course is a distortion of the facts, and if the communities that have endured these chemical drenchings had been familiar with the earlier history of the Japanese beetle in the United States they would surely have been less acquiescent.

The eastern states, which had the good fortune to sustain their beetle invasion in the days before the synthetic insecticides had been invented, have not only survived the invasion but have brought the insect under control by means that represented no threat whatever to other forms of life. There has been nothing comparable to the Detroit or Sheldon

sprayings in the East. The effective methods there involved the bringing into play of natural forces of control which

have the multiple advantages of permanence and environmental safety.

During the first dozen years after its entry into the United States, the beetle increased rapidly, free of the restraints that in its native land hold it in check. But by 1945 it had become a pest of only minor importance throughout much of the territory over which it had spread. Its decline was largely a consequence of the importation of parasitic insects from the Far East and of the establishment of disease organisms fatal to it.

Between 1920 and 1933, as a result of diligent searching throughout the native range of the beetle, some 34 species of predatory or parasitic insects had been imported from the Orient in an effort to establish natural control. Of these, five became well established in the eastern United States. The most effective and widely distributed is a parasitic wasp from Korea and China, Tiphia vernalis. The female Tiphia, finding a beetle grub in the soil, injects a paralyzing fluid and attaches a single egg to the undersurface of the grub. The young wasp, hatching as a larva, feeds on the paralyzed grub and destroys it. In some 25 years, colonies of Tiphia were introduced into 14 eastern states in a cooperative program of state and federal agencies. The wasp became widely established in this area and is generally credited by entomologists with an important role in bringing the beetle under control.

An even more important role has been played by a bacterial disease that affects beetles of the family to which the Japanese beetle belongs—the scarabaeids. It is a highly specific organism, attacking no other type of insects, harmless to earthworms, warm-blooded animals, and plants. The spores of the disease occur in soil. When ingested by a foraging beetle grub they multiply prodigiously in its blood, causing it to turn an abnormally white color, hence the popular name, ‘milky disease’.

Milky disease was discovered in New Jersey in 1933. By 1938 it was rather widely prevalent in the older areas of Japanese beetle infestation. In 1939 a control program was launched, directed at speeding up the spread of the disease. No method had been developed for growing the disease organism in an artificial medium, but a satisfactory substitute was evolved; infected grubs are ground up, dried, and combined with chalk. In the standard mixture a gram of dust contains 100 million spores. Between 1939 and 1953 some 94,000 acres in 14 eastern states were treated in a cooperative federalstate program; other areas on federal lands were treated; and an unknown but extensive area was treated by private organizations or individuals. By 1945, milky spore disease was raging among the beetle populations of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. In some test areas infection of grubs had reached as high as 94 per cent. The distribution program was discontinued as a governmental enterprise in 1953 and production was taken over by a private laboratory, which continues to supply individuals, garden clubs, citizens’ associations, and all others interested in beetle control.

The eastern areas where this program was carried out now enjoy a high degree of natural protection from the beetle. The organism remains viable in the soil for years and therefore becomes to all intents and purposes permanently established, increasing in effectiveness, and being continuously spread by natural agencies.

Why, then, with this impressive record in the East, were the same procedures not tried in Illinois and the other midwestern states where the chemical battle of the beetles is now being waged with such fury?

We are told that inoculation with milky spore disease is ‘too expensive’—although no one found it so in the 14 eastern states in the 1940s. And by what sort of accounting was the ‘too expensive’ judgment reached? Certainly not by any that assessed the true costs of the total destruction wrought by such programs as the Sheldon spraying. This judgment also ignores the fact that inoculation with the spores need be done only once; the first cost is the only cost.

We are told also that milky spore disease cannot be used on the periphery of the beetle’s range because it can be established only where a large grub population is already present in the soil. Like many other statements in support of spraying, this one needs to be questioned. The bacterium that causes milky spore disease has been found to infect at least 40 other species of beetles which collectively have quite a wide distribution and would in all probability serve to establish the disease even where the Japanese beetle population is very small or nonexistent. Furthermore, because of the long viability of the spores in soil they can be introduced even in the complete absence of grubs, as on the fringe of the present beetle infestation, there to await the advancing population.

Those who want immediate results, at whatever cost, will doubtless continue to use chemicals against the beetle. So will those who favor the modern trend to built-in obsolescence, for chemical control is self-perpetuating, needing frequent and costly repetition.

On the other hand, those who are willing to wait an extra season or two for full results will turn to milky disease; they will be rewarded with lasting control that becomes more, rather than less effective with the passage of time.

An extensive program of research is under way in the United States Department of Agriculture laboratory at Peoria, Illinois, to find a way to culture the organism of milky disease on an artificial medium. This will greatly reduce its cost and should encourage its more extensive use. After years of work, some success has now been reported. When this ‘breakthrough’ is thoroughly established perhaps some sanity and perspective will be restored to our dealings with the Japanese beetle, which at the peak of its depredations never justified the nightmare excesses of some of these midwestern programs.

.    .    .

Incidents like the eastern Illinois spraying raise a question that is not only scientific but moral. The question is whether

any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.

These insecticides are not selective poisons; they do not single out the one species of which we desire to be rid. Each of them is used for the simple reason that it is a deadly poison. It therefore poisons all life with which it comes in contact: the cat beloved of some family, the farmer’s cattle, the rabbit in the field, and the horned lark out of the sky. These creatures are innocent of any harm to man. Indeed, by their very existence they and their fellows make his life more pleasant. Yet he rewards them with a death that is not only sudden but horrible. Scientific observers at Sheldon described the symptoms of a meadowlark found near death: ‘Although it lacked muscular coordination and could not fly or stand, it continued to beat its wings and clutch with its toes while lying on its side. Its beak was held open and breathing was labored.’ Even more pitiful was the mute testimony of the dead ground squirrels, which ‘exhibited a characteristic attitude in death. The back was bowed, and the forelegs with the toes of the feet tightly clenched were drawn close to the thorax…The head and neck were outstretched and the mouth often contained dirt, suggesting that the dying animal had been biting at the ground.’

By acquiescing in an act that can cause such suffering to a living creature, who among us is not diminished as a human being?


8. And No Birds Sing


OVER INCREASINGLY large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song. This sudden silencing of the song of birds, this obliteration of the color and beauty and interest they lend to our world have come about swiftly, insidiously, and unnoticed by those whose communities are as yet unaffected.

From the town of Hinsdale, Illinois, a housewife wrote in despair to one of the world’s leading ornithologists, Robert Cushman Murphy, Curator Emeritus of Birds at the American Museum of Natural History.

Here in our village the elm trees have been sprayed for several years [she wrote in 1958]. When we moved here six years ago, there was a wealth of bird life; I put up a feeder and had a steady stream of cardinals, chickadees, downies and nuthatches all winter, and the cardinals and chickadees brought their young ones in the summer.

After several years of DDT spray, the town is almost devoid of robins and starlings; chickadees have not been on my shelf for two years, and this year the cardinals are gone too; the nesting population in the neighborhood seems to

consist of one dove pair and perhaps one catbird family.

It is hard to explain to the children that the birds have been killed off, when they have learned in school that a Federal law protects the birds from killing or capture. ‘Will they ever come back?’ they ask, and I do not have the answer. The elms are still dying, and so are the birds. Is anything being done? Can anything be done? Can I do anything?

A year after the federal government had launched a massive spraying program against the fire ant, an Alabama woman wrote: ‘Our place has been a veritable bird sanctuary for over half a century. Last July we all remarked, “There are more birds than ever.” Then, suddenly, in the second week of August, they all disappeared. I was accustomed to rising early to care for my favorite mare that had a young filly. There was not a sound of the song of a bird. It was eerie, terrifying. What was man doing to our perfect and beautiful world? Finally, five months later a blue jay appeared and a wren.’

The autumn months to which she referred brought other somber reports from the deep South, where in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama the Field Notes published quarterly by the National Audubon Society and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service noted the striking phenomenon of ‘blank spots weirdly empty of virtually all bird life’. The Field Notes are a compilation of the reports of seasoned observers who have spent many years afield in their particular areas and have unparalleled knowledge of the normal bird life of the region. One such observer reported that in driving about southern Mississippi that fall she saw ‘no land birds at all for long distances’. Another in Baton Rouge reported that the contents of her feeders had lain untouched ‘for weeks on end’, while fruiting shrubs in her yard, that ordinarily would be stripped clean by that time, still were laden with berries. Still another reported that his picture window, ‘which often used to frame a scene splashed with the red of 40 or 50 cardinals and crowded with other species, seldom permitted a view of as many as a bird or two at a time.’ Professor Maurice Brooks of the University of West Virginia, an authority on the birds of the Appalachian region, reported that the West Virginia bird population had undergone ‘an incredible reduction’.

One story might serve as the tragic symbol of the fate of the birds—a fate that has already overtaken some species, and that threatens all. It is the story of the robin, the bird known to everyone. To millions of Americans, the season’s first robin means that the grip of winter is broken. Its coming is an event reported in newspapers and told eagerly at the breakfast table. And as the number of migrants grows and the first mists of green appear in the woodlands, thousands of people listen for the first dawn chorus of the robins throbbing in the early morning light. But now all is changed, and not even the return of the birds may be taken for granted.

The survival of the robin, and indeed of many other species as well, seems fatefully linked with the American elm, a tree that is part of the history of thousands of towns from the Atlantic to the Rockies, gracing their streets and their village squares and college campuses with majestic archways of green. Now the elms are stricken with a disease that afflicts them throughout their range, a disease so serious that many experts believe all efforts to save the elms will in the end be futile. It would be tragic to lose the elms, but it would be doubly tragic if, in vain efforts to save them, we plunge vast

segments of our bird populations into the night of extinction. Yet this is precisely what is threatened.

The so-called Dutch elm disease entered the United States from Europe about 1930 in elm burl logs imported for the veneer industry. It is a fungus disease; the organism invades the water-conducting vessels of the tree, spreads by spores carried by the flow of sap, and by its poisonous secretions as well as by mechanical clogging causes the branches to wilt and the tree to die. The disease is spread from diseased to healthy trees by elm bark beetles. The galleries which the insects have tunneled out under the bark of dead trees become contaminated with spores of the invading fungus, and the spores adhere to the insect body and are carried wherever the beetle flies. Efforts to control the fungus disease of the elms have been directed largely toward control of the carrier insect. In community after community, especially throughout the strongholds of the American elm, the Midwest and New England, intensive spraying has become a routine procedure.

What this spraying could mean to bird life, and especially to the robin, was first made clear by the work of two ornithologists at Michigan State University, Professor George Wallace and one of his graduate students, John Mehner. When Mr. Mehner began work for the doctorate in 1954, he chose a research project that had to do with robin populations. This was quite by chance, for at that time no one suspected that the robins were in danger. But even as he undertook the work, events occurred that were to change its character and indeed to deprive him of his material.

Spraying for Dutch elm disease began in a small way on the university campus in 1954. The following year the city of East Lansing (where the university is located) joined in, spraying on the campus was expanded, and, with local programs for gypsy moth and mosquito control also under way, the rain of chemicals increased to a downpour.

During 1954, the year of the first light spraying, all seemed well. The following spring the migrating robins began to return to the campus as usual. Like the bluebells in Tomlinson’s haunting essay ‘The Lost Wood’, they were ‘expecting no evil’ as they reoccupied their familiar territories. But soon it became evident that something was wrong. Dead and dying robins began to appear in the campus. Few birds were seen in their normal foraging activities or assembling in their usual roosts. Few nests were built; few young appeared. The pattern was repeated with monotonous regularity in succeeding springs. The sprayed area had become a lethal trap in which each wave of migrating robins would be eliminated in about a week. Then new arrivals would come in, only to add to the numbers of doomed birds seen on the campus in the agonized tremors that precede death.

‘The campus is serving as a graveyard for most of the robins that attempt to take up residence in the spring,’ said Dr. Wallace. But why? At first he suspected some disease of the nervous system, but soon it became evident that ‘in spite of the assurances of the insecticide people that their sprays were “harmless to birds” the robins were really dying of insecticidal poisoning; they exhibited the well-known symptoms of loss of balance, followed by tremors, convulsions, and death.’

Several facts suggested that the robins were being poisoned, not so much by direct contact with the insecticides as indirectly, by eating earthworms. Campus earthworms had been fed inadvertently to crayfish in a research project and all the crayfish had promptly died. A snake kept in a laboratory cage had gone into violent tremors after being fed such worms. And earthworms are the principal food of robins in the spring.

A key piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the doomed robins was soon to be supplied by Dr. Roy Barker of the Illinois Natural History Survey at Urbana. Dr. Barker’s work, published in 1958, traced the intricate cycle of events by which the robins’ fate is linked to the elm trees by way of the earthworms. The trees are sprayed in the spring (usually at the rate of 2 to 5 pounds of DDT per 50-foot tree, which may be the equivalent of as much as 23 pounds per acre where elms are numerous) and often again in July, at about half this concentration. Powerful sprayers direct a stream of poison to all parts of the tallest trees, killing directly not only the target organism, the bark beetle, but other insects, including pollinating species and predatory spiders and beetles. The poison forms a tenacious film over the leaves and bark. Rains do not wash it away. In the autumn the leaves fall to the ground, accumulate in sodden layers, and begin the slow process of becoming one with the soil. In this they are aided by the toil of the earthworms, who feed in the leaf litter, for elm leaves are among their favorite foods. In feeding on the leaves the worms also swallow the insecticide, accumulating and concentrating it in their bodies. Dr. Barker found deposits of DDT throughout the digestive tracts of the worms, their blood vessels, nerves, and body wall. Undoubtedly some of the earthworms themselves succumb, but others survive to become ‘biological magnifiers’ of the poison. In the spring the robins return to provide another link in the cycle. As few as 11 large earthworms can transfer a lethal dose of DDT to a robin. And 11 worms form a small part of a day’s rations to a bird that eats 10 to 12 earthworms in as many minutes.

Not all robins receive a lethal dose, but another consequence may lead to the extinction of their kind as surely as fatal poisoning. The shadow of sterility lies over all the bird studies and indeed lengthens to include all living things within its potential range. There are now only two or three dozen robins to be found each spring on the entire 185-acre campus of Michigan State University, compared with a conservatively estimated 370 adults in this area before spraying. In 1954 every robin nest under observation by Mehner produced young. Toward the end of June, 1957, when at least 370 young birds (the normal replacement of the adult population) would have been foraging over the campus in the years before spraying began, Mehner could find only one young robin. A year later Dr. Wallace was to report: ‘At no time during the spring or summer [of 1958] did I see a fledgling robin anywhere on the main campus, and so far I have failed to find anyone else who has seen one there.’

Part of this failure to produce young is due, of course, to the fact that one or more of a pair of robins dies before the nesting cycle is completed. But Wallace has significant records which point to something more sinister—the actual destruction of the birds’ capacity to reproduce. He has, for example, ‘records of robins and other birds building nests but laying no eggs, and others laying eggs and incubating them but not hatching them. We have one record of a robin that sat on its eggs faithfully for 21 days and they did not hatch. The normal incubation period is 13 days…Our analyses are showing high concentrations of DDT in the testes and ovaries of breeding birds,’ he told a congressional committee in 1960. ‘Ten males had amounts ranging from 30 to 109 parts per million in the testes, and two females had 151 and 211 parts per million respectively in the egg follicles in their ovaries.’

Soon studies in other areas began to develop findings equally dismal. Professor Joseph Hickey and his students at the University of Wisconsin, after careful comparative studies of sprayed and unsprayed areas, reported the robin mortality to be at least 86 to 88 per cent. The Cranbrook Institute of Science at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in an effort to assess the extent of bird loss caused by the spraying of the elms, asked in 1956 that all birds thought to be victims of DDT poisoning be turned in to the institute for examination. The request had a response beyond all expectations. Within a few weeks the deep-freeze facilities of the institute were taxed to capacity, so that other specimens had to be refused. By 1959 a thousand poisoned birds from this single community had been turned in or reported. Although the robin was the chief victim (one woman calling the institute reported 12 robins lying dead on her lawn as she spoke), 63 different species were included among the specimens examined at the institute.

The robins, then, are only one part of the chain of devastation linked to the spraying of the elms, even as the elm program is only one of the multitudinous spray programs that cover our land with poisons. Heavy mortality has occurred among about 90 species of birds, including those most familiar to suburbanites and amateur naturalists. The populations of nesting birds in general have declined as much as 90 per cent in some of the sprayed towns. As we shall see, all the various types of birds are affected—ground feeders, treetop feeders, bark feeders, predators.

It is only reasonable to suppose that all birds and mammals heavily dependent on earthworms or other soil organisms for food are threatened by the robins’ fate. Some 45 species of birds include earthworms in their diet. Among them is the woodcock, a species that winters in southern areas recently heavily sprayed with heptachlor. Two significant discoveries have now been made about the woodcock. Production of young birds on the New Brunswick breeding grounds is definitely reduced, and adult birds that have been analyzed contain large residues of DDT and heptachlor.

Already there are disturbing records of heavy mortality among more than 20 other species of ground-feeding birds whose food—worms, ants, grubs, or other soil organisms—has been poisoned. These include three of the thrushes whose songs are among the most exquisite of bird voices, the olive-backed, the wood, and the hermit. And the sparrows that flit through the shrubby understory of the woodlands and forage with rustling sounds amid the fallen leaves—the song sparrow and the white-throat—these, too, have been found among the victims of the elm sprays.

Mammals, also, may easily be involved in the cycle, directly or indirectly. Earthworms are important among the various foods of the raccoon, and are eaten in the spring and fall by opossums. Such subterranean tunnelers as shrews and moles capture them in numbers, and then perhaps pass on the poison to predators such as screech owls and barn owls. Several dying screech owls were picked up in Wisconsin following heavy rains in spring, perhaps poisoned by feeding on earthworms. Hawks and owls have been found in convulsions—great horned owls, screech owls, red-shouldered hawks, sparrow hawks, marsh hawks. These may be cases of secondary poisoning, caused by eating birds or mice that have accumulated insecticides in their livers or other organs.

Nor is it only the creatures that forage on the ground or those who prey on them that are endangered by the foliar spraying of the elms. All of the treetop feeders, the birds that glean their insect food from the leaves, have disappeared from heavily sprayed areas, among them those woodland sprites the kinglets, both ruby-crowned and golden-crowned, the tiny gnatcatchers, and many of the warblers, whose migrating hordes flow through the trees in spring in a multicolored tide of life. In 1956, a late spring delayed spraying so that it coincided with the arrival of an exceptionally heavy wave of warbler migration. Nearly all species of warblers present in the area were represented in the heavy kill that followed. In Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, at least a thousand myrtle warblers could be seen in migration during former years; in 1958, after the spraying of the elms, observers could find only two. So, with additions from other communities, the list grows, and the warblers killed by the spray include those that most charm and fascinate all who are aware of them: the black-and-white, the yellow, the magnolia, and the Cape May; the ovenbird, whose call throbs in the Maytime woods; the Blackburnian, whose wings are touched with flame; the chestnut-sided, the Canadian, and the black-throated green. These treetop feeders are affected either directly by eating poisoned insects or indirectly by a shortage of food.

The loss of food has also struck hard at the swallows that cruise the skies, straining out the aerial insects as herring strain the plankton of the sea. A Wisconsin naturalist reported: ‘Swallows have been hard hit. Everyone complains of how few they have compared to four or five years ago. Our sky overhead was full of them only four years ago. Now we seldom see any…This could be both lack of insects because of spray, or poisoned insects.’

Of other birds this same observer wrote: ‘Another striking loss is the phoebe. Flycatchers are scarce everywhere but the early hardy common phoebe is no more. I’ve seen one this spring and only one last spring. Other birders in Wisconsin make the same complaint. I have had five or six pair of cardinals in the past, none now. Wrens, robins, catbirds and screech owls have nested each year in our garden. There are none now. Summer mornings are without bird song. Only pest birds, pigeons, starlings and English sparrows remain. It is tragic and I can’t bear it.’

The dormant sprays applied to the elms in the fall, sending the poison into every little crevice in the bark, are probably responsible for the severe reduction observed in the number of chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, and brown creepers. During the winter of 1957-58, Dr. Wallace saw no chickadees or nuthatches at his home feeding station for the

first time in many years. Three nuthatches he found later provided a sorry little step-by-step lesson in cause and effect: one was feeding on an elm, another was found dying of typical DDT symptoms, the third was dead. The dying nuthatch was later found to have 226 parts per million of DDT in its tissues.

The feeding habits of all these birds not only make them especially vulnerable to insect sprays but also make their loss a deplorable one for economic as well as less tangible reasons. The summer food of the white-breasted nuthatch and the brown creeper, for example, includes the eggs, larvae, and adults of a very large number of insects injurious to trees. About three quarters of the food of the chickadee is animal, including all stages of the life cycle of many insects. The chickadee’s method of feeding is described in Bent’s monumental Life Histories of North American birds: ‘As the flock moves along each bird examines minutely bark, twigs, and branches, searching for tiny bits of food (spiders’ eggs, cocoons, or other dormant insect life).’

Various scientific studies have established the critical role of birds in insect control in various situations. Thus, woodpeckers are the primary control of the Engelmann spruce beetle, reducing its populations from 45 to 98 per cent and are important in the control of the codling moth in apple orchards. Chickadees and other winter-resident birds can protect orchards against the cankerworm.

But what happens in nature is not allowed to happen in the modern, chemical-drenched world, where spraying destroys not only the insects but their principal enemy, the birds. When later there is a resurgence of the insect population, as almost always happens, the birds are not there to keep their numbers in check. As the Curator of Birds at the Milwaukee Public Museum, Owen J. Gromme, wrote to the Milwaukee Journal: ‘The greatest enemy of insect life is other predatory insects, birds, and some small mammals, but DDT kills indiscriminately, including nature’s own safeguards or policemen… In the name of progress are we to become victims of our own diabolical means of insect control to provide temporary comfort, only to lose out to destroying insects later on? By what means will we control new pests, which will attack remaining tree species after the elms are gone, when nature’s safeguards (the birds) have been wiped out by poison?’

Mr. Gromme reported that calls and letters about dead and dying birds had been increasing steadily during the years since spraying began in Wisconsin. Questioning always revealed that spraying or fogging had been done in the area where the birds were dying.

Mr. Gromme’s experience has been shared by ornithologists and conservationists at most of the research centers of the Midwest such as the Cranbrook Institute in Michigan, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the University of Wisconsin. A glance at the Letters-from-Readers column of newspapers almost anywhere that spraying is being done makes clear the fact that citizens are not only becoming aroused and indignant but that often they show a keener

understanding of the dangers and inconsistencies of spraying than do the officials who order it done. ‘I am dreading the days to come soon now when many beautiful birds will be dying in our back yard,’ wrote a Milwaukee woman. ‘This is a pitiful, heartbreaking experience… It is, moreover, frustrating and exasperating, for it evidently does not serve the purpose this slaughter was intended to serve… Taking a long look, can you save trees without also saving birds? Do they not, in the economy of nature, save each other? Isn’t it possible to help the balance of nature without destroying it?’

The idea that the elms, majestic shade trees though they are, are not ‘sacred cows’ and do not justify an ‘open end’ campaign of destruction against all other forms of life is expressed in other letters. ‘I have always loved our elm trees which seemed like trademarks on our landscape,’ wrote another Wisconsin woman. ‘But there are many kinds of trees…We must save our birds, too. Can anyone imagine anything so cheerless and dreary as a springtime without a robin’s song?’

To the public the choice may easily appear to be one of stark black-or-white simplicity: Shall we have birds or shall we have elms? But it is not as simple as that, and by one of the ironies that abound throughout the field of chemical control we may very well end by having neither if we continue on our present, well-traveled road. Spraying is killing the birds but it is not saving the elms. The illusion that salvation of the elms lies at the end of a spray nozzle is a dangerous will-o’the-wisp that is leading one community after another into a morass of heavy expenditures, without producing lasting results. Greenwich, Connecticut sprayed regularly for ten years. Then a drought year brought conditions especially favorable to the beetle and the mortality of elms went up 1000 per cent. In Urbana, Illinois, where the University of Illinois is located, Dutch elm disease first appeared in 1951. Spraying was undertaken in 1953. By 1959, in spite of six years’ spraying, the university campus had lost 86 per cent of its elms, half of them victims of Dutch elm disease.

In Toledo, Ohio, a similar experience caused the Superintendent of Forestry, Joseph A. Sweeney, to take a realistic look at the results of spraying. Spraying was begun there in 1953 and continued through 1959. Meanwhile, however, Mr. Sweeney had noticed that a city-wide infestation of the cottony maple scale was worse after the spraying recommended by ‘the books and the authorities’ than it had been before. He decided to review the results of spraying for Dutch elm disease for himself. His findings shocked him. In the city of Toledo, he found, ‘the only areas under any control were the areas where we used some promptness in removing the diseased or brood trees. Where we depended on spraying the disease was out of control. In the country where nothing has been done the disease has not spread as fast as it has in the city. This indicates that spraying destroys any natural enemies.

‘We are abandoning spraying for the Dutch elm disease. This has brought me into conflict with the people who back any recommendations by the United States Department of Agriculture but I have the facts and will stick with them.’

It is difficult to understand why these midwestern towns, to which the elm disease spread only rather recently, have so unquestioningly embarked on ambitious and expensive spraying programs, apparently without waiting to inquire into the experience of other areas that have had longer acquaintance with the problem. New York State, for example, has certainly had the longest history of continuous experience with Dutch elm disease, for it was via the Port of New York that diseased elm wood is thought to have entered the United States about 1930. And New York State today has a most impressive record of containing and suppressing the disease. Yet it has not relied upon spraying. In fact, its agricultural extension service does not recommend spraying as a community method of control.

How, then, has New York achieved its fine record? From the early years of the battle for the elms to the present time, it has relied upon rigorous sanitation, or the prompt removal and destruction of all diseased or infected wood. In the beginning some of the results were disappointing, but this was because it was not at first understood that not only diseased trees but all elm wood in which the beetles might breed must be destroyed. Infected elm wood, after being cut and stored for firewood, will release a crop of fungus-carrying beetles unless burned before spring. It is the adult beetles, emerging from hibernation to feed in late April and May, that transmit Dutch elm disease. New York entomologists have learned by experience what kinds of beetle-breeding material have real importance in the spread of the disease. By concentrating on this dangerous material, it has been possible not only to get good results, but to keep the cost of the sanitation program within reasonable limits. By 1950 the incidence of Dutch elm disease in New York City had been reduced to  of 1 per cent of the city’s 55,000 elms. A sanitation program was launched in Westchester County in 1942. During the next 14 years the average annual loss of elms was only  of 1 per cent a year. Buffalo, with 185,000 elms, has an excellent record of containing the disease by sanitation, with recent annual losses amounting to only  of 1 per cent. In other words, at this rate of loss it would take about 300 years to eliminate Buffalo’s elms.

What has happened in Syracuse is especially impressive. There no effective program was in operation before 1957. Between 1951 and 1956 Syracuse lost nearly 3000 elms. Then, under the direction of Howard C. Miller of the New York State University College of Forestry, an intensive drive was made to remove all diseased elm trees and all possible sources of beetle-breeding elm wood. The rate of loss is now well below 1 per cent a year.

The economy of the sanitation method is stressed by New York experts in Dutch elm disease control. ‘In most cases the actual expense is small compared with the probable saving,’ says J. G. Matthysse of the New York State College of Agriculture. ‘If it is a case of a dead or broken limb, the limb would have to be removed eventually, as a precaution against possible property damage or personal injury. If it is a fuel-wood pile, the wood can be used before spring, the bark can be peeled from the wood, or the wood can be stored in a dry place. In the case of dying or dead elm trees, the expense of prompt removal to prevent Dutch elm disease spread is usually no greater than would be necessary later, for most dead trees in urban regions must be removed eventually.’

The situation with regard to Dutch elm disease is therefore not entirely hopeless provided informed and intelligent measures are taken. While it cannot be eradicated by any means now known, once it has become established in a community, it can be suppressed and contained within reasonable bounds by sanitation, and without the use of methods that are not only futile but involve tragic destruction of bird life. Other possibilities lie within the field of forest genetics, where experiments offer hope of developing a hybrid elm resistant to Dutch elm disease. The European elm is highly resistant, and many of them have been planted in Washington, D.C. Even during a period when a high percentage of the city’s elms were affected, no cases of Dutch elm disease were found among these trees.

Replanting through an immediate tree nursery and forestry program is being urged in communities that are losing large numbers of elms. This is important, and although such programs might well include the resistant European elms, they should aim at a variety of species so that no future epidemic could deprive a community of its trees. The key to a healthy plant or animal community lies in what the British ecologist Charles Elton calls ‘the conservation of variety’. What is happening now is in large part a result of the biological unsophistication of past generations. Even a generation ago no one knew that to fill large areas with a single species of tree was to invite disaster. And so whole towns lined their streets and dotted their parks with elms, and today the elms die and so do the birds.

.    .    .

Like the robin, another American bird seems to be on the verge of extinction. This is the national symbol, the eagle. Its populations have dwindled alarmingly within the past decade. The facts suggest that something is at work in the eagle’s environment which has virtually destroyed its ability to reproduce. What this may be is not yet definitely known, but there is some evidence that insecticides are responsible.

The most intensively studied eagles in North America have been those nesting along a stretch of coast from Tampa to Fort Myers on the western coast of Florida. There a retired banker from Winnipeg, Charles Broley, achieved ornithological fame by banding more than 1,000 young bald eagles during the years 1939-49. (Only 166 eagles had been banded in all the earlier history of birdbanding.) Mr. Broley banded eagles as young birds during the winter months before they had left their nests. Later recoveries of banded birds showed that these Florida-born eagles range northward along the coast into Canada as far as Prince Edward Island, although they had previously been considered nonmigratory. In the fall they return to the South, their migration being observed at such famous vantage points as Hawk Mountain in eastern Pennsylvania.

During the early years of his banding, Mr. Broley used to find 125 active nests a year on the stretch of coast he had chosen for his work. The number of young banded each year was about 150. In 1947 the production of young birds began to decline. Some nests contained no eggs; others contained eggs that failed to hatch. Between 1952 and 1957, about 80 per cent of the nests failed to produce young. In the last year of this period only 43 nests were occupied. Seven of them

produced young (8 eaglets); 23 contained eggs that failed to hatch; 13 were used merely as feeding stations by adult eagles and contained no eggs. In 1958 Mr. Broley ranged over 100 miles of coast before finding and banding one eaglet. Adult eagles, which had been seen at 43 nests in 1957, were so scarce that he observed them at only 10 nests.

Although Mr. Broley’s death in 1959 terminated this valuable series of uninterrupted observations, reports by the Florida Audubon Society, as well as from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, confirm the trend that may well make it necessary for us to find a new national emblem. The reports of Maurice Broun, curator of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, are especially significant. Hawk Mountain is a picturesque mountaintop in southeastern Pennsylvania, where the easternmost ridges of the Appalachians form a last barrier to the westerly winds before dropping away toward the coastal plain. Winds striking the mountains are deflected upward so that on many autumn days there is a continuous updraft on which the broad-winged hawks and eagles ride without effort, covering many miles of their southward migration in a day. At Hawk Mountain the ridges converge and so do the aerial highways. The result is that from a widespread territory to the north birds pass through this traffic bottleneck.

In his more than a score of years as custodian of the sanctuary there, Maurice Broun has observed and actually tabulated more hawks and eagles than any other American. The peak of the bald eagle migration comes in late August and early September. These are assumed to be Florida birds, returning to home territory after a summer in the North. (Later in the fall and early winter a few larger eagles drift through. These are thought to belong to a northern race, bound for an unknown wintering ground.) During the first years after the sanctuary was established, from 1935 to 1939, 40 per cent of the eagles observed were yearlings, easily identified by their uniformly dark plumage. But in recent years these immature birds have become a rarity. Between 1955 and 1959, they made up only 20 per cent of the total count, and in one year (1957) there was only one young eagle for every 32 adults.

Observations at Hawk Mountain are in line with findings elsewhere. One such report comes from Elton Fawks, an official of the Natural Resources Council of Illinois. Eagles—probably northern nesters—winter along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. In 1958 Mr. Fawks reported that a recent count of 59 eagles had included only one immature bird. Similar indications of the dying out of the race come from the world’s only sanctuary for eagles alone, Mount Johnson Island in the Susquehanna River. The island, although only 8 miles above Conowingo Dam and about half a mile out from the Lancaster County shore, retains its primitive wildness. Since 1934 its single eagle nest has been under observation by Professor Herbert H. Beck, an ornithologist of Lancaster and custodian of the sanctuary. Between 1935 and 1947 use of the nest was regular and uniformly successful. Since 1947, although the adults have occupied the nest and there is evidence of egg laying, no young eagles have been produced.

On Mount Johnson Island as well as in Florida, then, the same situation prevails—there is some occupancy of nests by adults, some production of eggs, but few or no young birds. In seeking an explanation, only one appears to fit all the facts. This is that the reproductive capacity of the birds has been so lowered by some environmental agent that there are now almost no annual additions of young to maintain the race.

Exactly this sort of situation has been produced artificially in other birds by various experimenters, notably Dr. James DeWitt of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Dr. DeWitt’s now classic experiments on the effect of a series of insecticides on quail and pheasants have established the fact that exposure to DDT or related chemicals, even when doing no observable harm to the parent birds, may seriously affect reproduction. The way the effect is exerted may vary, but the end result is always the same. For example, quail into whose diet DDT was introduced throughout the breeding season survived and even produced normal numbers of fertile eggs. But few of the eggs hatched. ‘Many embryos appeared to develop normally during the early stages of incubation, but died during the hatching period,’ Dr. DeWitt said. Of those that did hatch, more than half died within 5 days. In other tests in which both pheasants and quail were the subjects, the adults produced no eggs whatever if they had been fed insecticide-contaminated diets throughout the year. And at the University of California, Dr. Robert Rudd and Dr. Richard Genelly reported similar findings. When pheasants received dieldrin in their diets, ‘egg production was markedly lowered and chick survival was poor.’ According to these authors, the delayed but lethal effect on the young birds follows from storage of dieldrin in the yolk of the egg, from which it is gradually assimilated during incubation and after hatching.

This suggestion is strongly supported by recent studies by Dr. Wallace and a graduate student, Richard F. Bernard, who found high concentrations of DDT in robins on the Michigan State University campus. They found the poison in all of the testes of male robins examined, in developing egg follicles, in the ovaries of females, in completed but unlaid eggs, in the oviducts, in unhatched eggs from deserted nests, in embryos within the eggs, and in a newly hatched, dead nestling.

These important studies establish the fact that the insecticidal poison affects a generation once removed from initial contact with it. Storage of poison in the egg, in the yolk material that nourishes the developing embryo, is a virtual death warrant and explains why so many of DeWitt’s birds died in the egg or a few days after hatching.

Laboratory application of these studies to eagles presents difficulties that are nearly insuperable, but field studies are now under way in Florida, New Jersey, and elsewhere in the hope of acquiring definite evidence as to what has caused the apparent sterility of much of the eagle population. Meanwhile, the available circumstantial evidence points to insecticides. In localities where fish are abundant they make up a large part of the eagle’s diet (about 65 per cent in Alaska; about 52 per cent in the Chesapeake Bay area). Almost unquestionably the eagles so long studied by Mr. Broley were predominantly fish eaters. Since 1945 this particular coastal area has been subjected to repeated sprayings with DDT dissolved in fuel oil. The principal target of the aerial spraying was the salt-marsh mosquito, which inhabits the marshes and coastal areas that are typical foraging areas for the eagles. Fishes and crabs were killed in enormous numbers. Laboratory analyses of their tissues revealed high concentrations of DDT—as much as 46 parts per million. Like the grebes of Clear Lake, which accumulated heavy concentrations of insecticide residues from eating the fish of the lake, the eagles have almost certainly been storing up the DDT in the tissues of their bodies. And like the grebes, the pheasants, the quail, and the robins, they are less and less able to produce young and to preserve the continuity of their race.

.    .    .

From all over the world come echoes of the peril that faces birds in our modern world. The reports differ in detail, but always repeat the theme of death to wildlife in the wake of pesticides. Such are the stories of hundreds of small birds and partridges dying in France after vine stumps were treated with an arsenic-containing herbicide, or of partridge shoots in Belgium, once famous for the numbers of their birds, denuded of partridges after the spraying of nearby farmlands.

In England the major problem seems to be a specialized one, linked with the growing practice of treating seed with insecticides before sowing. Seed treatment is not a wholly new thing, but in earlier years the chemicals principally used were fungicides. No effects on birds seem to have been noticed. Then about 1956 there was a change to dual-purpose treatment; in addition to a fungicide, dieldrin, aldrin, or heptachlor was added to combat soil insects. Thereupon the situation changed for the worse.

In the spring of 1960 a deluge of reports of dead birds reached British wildlife authorities, including the British Trust for Ornithology, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Game Birds Association. ‘The place is like a battlefield,’ a landowner in Norfolk wrote. ‘My keeper has found innumerable corpses, including masses of small birds— Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Linnets, Hedge Sparrows, also House Sparrows…the destruction of wild life is quite pitiful.’ A gamekeeper wrote: ‘My Partridges have been wiped out with the dressed corn, also some Pheasants and all other birds, hundreds of birds have been killed… As a lifelong gamekeeper it has been a distressing experience for me. It is bad to see pairs of Partridges that have died together.’

In a joint report, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds described some 67 kills of birds—a far from complete listing of the destruction that took place in the spring of 1960. Of these 67, 59 were caused by seed dressings, 8 by toxic sprays.

A new wave of poisoning set in the following year. The death of 600 birds on a single estate in Norfolk was reported to the House of Lords, and 100 pheasants died on a farm in North Essex. It soon became evident that more counties were involved than in 1960 (34 compared with 23). Lincolnshire, heavily agricultural, seemed to have suffered most, with reports of 10,000 birds dead. But destruction involved all of agricultural England, from Angus in the north to Cornwall in

the south, from Anglesey in the west to Norfolk in the east.

In the spring of 1961 concern reached such a peak that a special committee of the House of Commons made an investigation of the matter, taking testimony from farmers, landowners, and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and of various governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with wildlife.

‘Pigeons are suddenly dropping out of the sky dead,’ said one witness. ‘You can drive a hundred or two hundred miles outside London and not see a single kestrel,’ reported another. ‘There has been no parallel in the present century, or at any time so far as I am aware, [this is] the biggest risk to wildlife and game that ever occurred in the country,’ officials of the Nature Conservancy testified.

Facilities for chemical analysis of the victims were most inadequate to the task, with only two chemists in the country able to make the tests (one the government chemist, the other in the employ of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Witnesses described huge bonfires on which the bodies of the birds were burned. But efforts were made to have carcasses collected for examination, and of the birds analyzed, all but one contained pesticide residues. The single exception was a snipe, which is not a seed-eating bird.

Along with the birds, foxes also may have been affected, probably indirectly by eating poisoned mice or birds. England, plagued by rabbits, sorely needs the fox as a predator. But between November 1959 and April 1960 at least 1300 foxes died. Deaths were heaviest in the same counties from which sparrow hawks, kestrels, and other birds of prey virtually disappeared, suggesting that the poison was spreading through the food chain, reaching out from the seed eaters to the furred and feathered carnivores. The actions of the moribund foxes were those of animals poisoned by chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides. They were seen wandering in circles, dazed and half blind, before dying in convulsions.

The hearings convinced the committee that the threat to wildlife was ‘most alarming’; it accordingly recommended to the House of Commons that ‘the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland should secure the immediate prohibition for the use as seed dressings of compounds containing dieldrin, aldrin, or heptachlor, or chemicals of comparable toxicity.’ The committee also recommended more adequate controls to ensure that chemicals were adequately tested under field as well as laboratory conditions before being put on the market. This, it is worth emphasizing, is one of the great blank spots in pesticide research everywhere. Manufacturers’ tests on the common laboratory animals—rats, dogs, guinea pigs—include no wild species, no birds as a rule, no fishes, and are conducted under controlled and artificial conditions. Their application to wildlife in the field is anything but precise.

England is by no means alone in its problem of protecting birds from treated seeds. Here in the United States the problem has been most troublesome in the rice-growing areas of California and the South. For a number of years

California rice growers have been treating seed with DDT as protection against tadpole shrimp and scavenger beetles which sometimes damage seedling rice. California sportsmen have enjoyed excellent hunting because of the

concentrations of waterfowl and pheasants in the rice fields. But for the past decade persistent reports of bird losses, especially among pheasants, ducks, and blackbirds, have come from the rice-growing counties. ‘Pheasant sickness’ became a well-known phenomenon: birds ‘seek water, become paralyzed, and are found on the ditch banks and rice checks quivering,’ according to one observer. The ‘sickness’ comes in the spring, at the time the rice fields are seeded. The concentration of DDT used is many times the amount that will kill an adult pheasant.

The passage of a few years and the development of even more poisonous insecticides served to increase the hazard from treated seed. Aldrin, which is 100 times as toxic as DDT to pheasants, is now widely used as a seed coating. In the rice fields of eastern Texas, this practice has seriously reduced the populations of the famous tree duck, a tawny-colored, gooselike duck of the Gulf Coast. Indeed, there is some reason to think that the rice growers, having found a way to reduce the populations of blackbirds, are using the insecticide for a dual purpose, with disastrous effects on several bird species of the rice fields.

As the habit of killing grows—the resort to ‘eradicating’ any creature that may annoy or inconvenience us—birds are more and more finding themselves a direct target of poisons rather than an incidental one. There is a growing trend toward aerial applications of such deadly poisons as parathion to ‘control’ concentrations of birds distasteful to farmers. The Fish and Wildlife Service has found it necessary to express serious concern over this trend, pointing out that ‘parathion treated areas constitute a potential hazard to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.’ In southern Indiana, for example, a group of farmers went together in the summer of 1959 to engage a spray plane to treat an area of river bottomland with parathion. The area was a favored roosting site for thousands of blackbirds that were feeding in nearby corn fields. The problem could have been solved easily by a slight change in agricultural practice shift to a variety of corn with deep-set ears not accessible to the birds—but the farmers had been persuaded of the merits of killing by poison, and so they sent in the planes on their mission of death.

The results probably gratified the farmers, for the casualty list included some 65,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings. What other wildlife deaths may have gone unnoticed and unrecorded is not known. Parathion is not a specific for blackbirds: it is a universal killer. But such rabbits or raccoons or opossums as may have roamed those bottomlands and perhaps never visited the farmers’ cornfields were doomed by a judge and jury who neither knew of their existence nor cared.

And what of human beings? In California orchards sprayed with this same parathion, workers handling foliage that had been treated a month earlier collapsed and went into shock, and escaped death only through skilled medical attention. Does Indiana still raise any boys who roam through woods or fields and might even explore the margins of a river? If so, who guarded the poisoned area to keep out any who might wander in, in misguided search for unspoiled nature? Who kept vigilant watch to tell the innocent stroller that the fields he was about to enter were deadly—all their vegetation coated with a lethal film? Yet at so fearful a risk the farmers, with none to hinder them, waged their needless war on blackbirds.

In each of these situations, one turns away to ponder the question: Who has made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings, this ever-widening wave of death that spreads out, like ripples when a pebble is dropped into a still pond? Who has placed in one pan of the scales the leaves that might have been eaten by the beetles and in the other the pitiful heaps of many-hued feathers, the lifeless remains of the birds that fell before the unselective bludgeon of insecticidal poisons? Who has decided —who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power; he has made it during a moment of inattention by millions to whom beauty and the ordered world of nature still have a meaning that is deep and imperative.



9.   Rivers of Death


FROM THE GREEN DEPTHS of the offshore Atlantic many paths lead back to the coast. They are paths followed by fish; although unseen and intangible, they are linked with the outflow of waters from the coastal rivers. For thousands upon thousands of years the salmon have known and followed these threads of fresh water that lead them back to the rivers, each returning to the tributary in which it spent the first months or years of life. So, in the summer and fall of 1953, the salmon of the river called Miramichi on the coast of New Brunswick moved in from their feeding grounds in the far Atlantic and ascended their native river. In the upper reaches of the Miramichi, in streams that gather together a network of shadowed brooks, the salmon deposited their eggs that autumn in beds of gravel over which the stream water flowed swift and cold. Such places, the watersheds of the great coniferous forests of spruce and balsam, of hemlock and pine, provide the kind of spawning grounds that salmon must have in order to survive.

These events repeated a pattern that was age-old, a pattern that had made the Miramichi one of the finest salmon streams in North America. But that year the pattern was to be broken.

During the fall and winter the salmon eggs, large and thickshelled, lay in shallow gravel-filled troughs, or redds, which the mother fish had dug in the stream bottom. In the cold of winter they developed slowly, as was their way, and only when spring at last brought thawing and release to the forest streams did the young hatch. At first they hid among the pebbles of the stream bed—tiny fish about half an inch long. They took no food, living in the large yolk sac. Not until it was absorbed would they begin to search the stream for small insects.

With the newly hatched salmon in the Miramichi that spring of 1954 were young of previous hatchings, salmon a year or two old, young fish in brilliant coats marked with bars and bright red spots. These young fed voraciously, seeking out the strange and varied insect life of the stream.

As the summer approached, all this was changed. That year the watershed of the Northwest Miramichi was included in a vast spraying program which the Canadian Government had embarked upon the previous year—a program designed to save the forests from the spruce budworm. The budworm is a native insect that attacks several kinds of evergreens. In eastern Canada it seems to become extraordinarily abundant about every 35 years. The early 1950s had seen such an upsurge in the budworm populations. To combat it, spraying with DDT was begun, first in a small way, then at a suddenly accelerated rate in 1953. Millions of acres of forests were sprayed instead of thousands as before, in an effort to save the balsams, which are the mainstay of the pulp and paper industry.

So in 1954, in the month of June, the planes visited the forests of the Northwest Miramichi and white clouds of settling mist marked the crisscross pattern of their flight. The spray—one half pound of DDT to the acre in a solution of oil— filtered down through the balsam forests and some of it finally reached the ground and the flowing streams. The pilots, their thoughts only on their assigned task, made no effort to avoid the streams or to shut off the spray nozzles while flying over them; but because spray drifts so far in even the slightest stirrings of air, perhaps the result would have been little different if they had.

Soon after the spraying had ended there were unmistakable signs that all was not well. Within two days dead and dying fish, including many young salmon, were found along the banks of the stream. Brook trout also appeared among the dead fish, and along the roads and in the woods birds were dying. All the life of the stream was stilled. Before the spraying there had been a rich assortment of the water life that forms the food of salmon and trout—caddis fly larvae, living in loosely fitting protective cases of leaves, stems or gravel cemented together with saliva, stone fly nymphs clinging to rocks in the swirling currents, and the wormlike larvae of blackflies edging the stones under riffles or where the stream spills over steeply slanting rocks. But now the stream insects were dead, killed by the DDT, and there was nothing for a young salmon to eat.

Amid such a picture of death and destruction, the young salmon themselves could hardly have been expected to escape, and they did not. By August not one of the young salmon that had emerged from the gravel beds that spring remained. A whole year’s spawning had come to nothing. The older young, those hatched a year or more earlier, fared only slightly better. For every six young of the 1953 hatch that had foraged in the stream as the planes approached, only one

remained. Young salmon of the 1952 hatch, almost ready to go to sea, lost a third of their numbers.

All these facts are known because the Fisheries Research Board of Canada had been conducting a salmon study on the Northwest Miramichi since 1950. Each year it had made a census of the fish living in this stream. The records of the biologists covered the number of adult salmon ascending to spawn, the number of young of each age group present in the stream, and the normal population not only of salmon but of other species of fish inhabiting the stream. With this complete record of prespraying conditions, it was possible to measure the damage done by the spraying with an accuracy that has seldom been matched elsewhere.

The survey showed more than the loss of young fish; it revealed a serious change in the streams themselves. Repeated sprayings have now completely altered the stream environment, and the aquatic insects that are the food of salmon and trout have been killed. A great deal of time is required, even after a single spraying, for most of these insects to build up sufficient numbers to support a normal salmon population—time measured in years rather than months.

The smaller species, such as midges and blackflies, become reestablished rather quickly. These are suitable food for the smallest salmon, the fry only a few months old. But there is no such rapid recovery of the larger aquatic insects, on which salmon in their second and third years depend. These are the larval stages of caddis flies, stoneflies, and mayflies. Even in the second year after DDT enters a stream, a foraging salmon parr would have trouble finding anything more than an occasional small stonefly. There would be no large stoneflies, no mayflies, no caddis flies. In an effort to supply this natural food, the Canadians have attempted to transplant caddis fly larvae and other insects to the barren reaches of the Miramichi. But of course such transplants would be wiped out by any repeated spraying.

The budworm populations, instead of dwindling as expected, have proved refractory, and from 1955 to 1957 spraying was repeated in various parts of New Brunswick and Quebec, some places being sprayed as many as three times. By 1957, nearly 15 million acres had been sprayed. Although spraying was then tentatively suspended, a sudden resurgence of budworms led to its resumption in 1960 and 1961. Indeed there is no evidence anywhere that chemical spraying for budworm control is more than a stopgap measure (aimed at saving the trees from death through defoliation over several successive years), and so its unfortunate side effects will continue to be felt as spraying is continued. In an effort to minimize the destruction of fish, the Canadian forestry officials have reduced the concentration of DDT from the ½ pound previously used to ¼ pound to the acre, on the recommendation of the Fisheries Research Board. (In the United States the standard and highly lethal pound-to-the-acre still prevails.) Now, after several years in which to observe the effects of spraying, the Canadians find a mixed situation, but one that affords very little comfort to devotees of salmon fishing, provided spraying is continued.

A very unusual combination of circumstances has so far saved the runs of the Northwest Miramichi from the destruction that was anticipated—a constellation of happenings that might not occur again in a century. It is important to understand what has happened there, and the reasons for it.

In 1954, as we have seen, the watershed of this branch of the Miramichi was heavily sprayed. Thereafter, except for a narrow band sprayed in 1956, the whole upper watershed of this branch was excluded from the spraying program. In the fall of 1954 a tropical storm played its part in the fortunes of the Miramichi salmon. Hurricane Edna, a violent storm to the very end of its northward path, brought torrential rains to the New England and Canadian coasts. The resulting freshets carried streams of fresh water far out to sea and drew in unusual numbers of salmon. As a result, the gravel beds of the streams which the salmon seek out for spawning received an unusual abundance of eggs. The young salmon hatching in the Northwest Miramichi in the spring of 1955 found circumstances practically ideal for their survival. While the DDT had killed off all stream insects the year before, the smallest of the insects—the midges and blackflies had returned in numbers. These are the normal food of baby salmon. The salmon fry of that year not only found abundant food but they had few competitors for it. This was because of the grim fact that the older young salmon had been killed off by the spraying in 1954. Accordingly, the fry of 1955 grew very fast and survived in exceptional numbers. They completed their stream growth rapidly and went to sea early. Many of them returned in 1959 to give large runs of grilse to the native stream.

If the runs in the Northwest Miramichi are still in relatively good condition this is because spraying was done in one year only. The results of repeated spraying are clearly seen in other streams of the watershed, where alarming declines in the salmon populations are occurring.

In all sprayed streams, young salmon of every size are scarce. The youngest are often ‘practically wiped out’, the biologists report. In the main Southwest Miramichi, which was sprayed in 1956 and 1957, the 1959 catch was the lowest in a decade. Fishermen remarked on the extreme scarcity of grilse—the youngest group of returning fish. At the sampling trap in the estuary of the Miramichi the count of grilse was only a fourth as large in 1959 as the year before. In 1959 the whole Miramichi watershed produced only about 600,000 smolt (young salmon descending to the sea). This was less than a third of the runs of the three preceding years.

Against such a background, the future of the salmon fisheries in New Brunswick may well depend on finding a substitute for drenching forests with DDT.

.    .    .

The eastern Canadian situation is not unique, except perhaps in the extent of forest spraying and the wealth of facts that have been collected. Maine, too, has its forests of spruce and balsam, and its problem of controlling forest insects. Maine, too, has its salmon runs—a remnant of the magnificent runs of former days, but a remnant hard won by the work of biologists and conservationists to save some habitat for salmon in streams burdened with industrial pollution and choked with logs. Although spraying has been tried as a weapon against the ubiquitous budworm, the areas affected have been relatively small and have not, as yet, included important spawning streams for salmon. But what happened to stream fish in an area observed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Game is perhaps a portent of things to come.

‘Immediately after the 1958 spraying,’ the Department reported, ‘moribund suckers were observed in large numbers in Big Goddard Brook. These fish exhibited the typical symptoms of DDT poisoning; they swam erratically, gasped at the surface, and exhibited tremors and spasms. In the first five days after spraying, 668 dead suckers were collected from two blocking nets. Minnows and suckers were also killed in large numbers in Little Goddard, Carry, Alder, and Blake Brooks. Fish were often seen floating passively downstream in a weakened and moribund condition. In several instances, blind and dying trout were found floating passively downstream more than a week after spraying.’

(The fact that DDT may cause blindness in fish is confirmed by various studies. A Canadian biologist who observed spraying on northern Vancouver Island in 1957 reported that cutthroat trout fingerlings could be picked out of the streams by hand, for the fish were moving sluggishly and made no attempt to escape. On examination, they were found to have an opaque white film covering the eye, indicating that vision had been impaired or destroyed. Laboratory studies by the Canadian Department of Fisheries showed that almost all fish [Coho salmon] not actually killed by exposure to low concentrations of DDT [3 parts per million] showed symptoms of blindness, with marked opacity of the lens.)

Wherever there are great forests, modern methods of insect control threaten the fishes inhabiting the streams in the shelter of the trees. One of the best-known examples of fish destruction in the United States took place in 1955, as a result of spraying in and near Yellowstone National Park. By the fall of that year, so many dead fish had been found in the Yellowstone River that sportsmen and Montana fish-and-game administrators became alarmed. About 90 miles of the river were affected. In one 300-yard length of shoreline, 600 dead fish were counted, including brown trout, whitefish, and suckers. Stream insects, the natural food of trout, had disappeared.

Forest Service officials declared they had acted on advice that 1 pound of DDT to the acre was ‘safe’. But the results of the spraying should have been enough to convince anyone that the advice had been far from sound. A cooperative study was begun in 1956 by the Montana Fish and Game Department and two federal agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service. Spraying in Montana that year covered 900,000 acres; 800,000 acres were also treated in 1957. The biologists therefore had no trouble finding areas for their study.

Always, the pattern of death assumed a characteristic shape: the smell of DDT over the forests, an oil film on the water surface, dead trout along the shoreline. All fish analyzed, whether taken alive or dead, had stored DDT in their tissues. As in eastern Canada, one of the most serious effects of spraying was the severe reduction of food organisms. On many study areas aquatic insects and other stream-bottom fauna were reduced to a tenth of their normal populations. Once destroyed, populations of these insects, so essential to the survival of trout, take a long time to rebuild. Even by the end of the second summer after spraying, only meager quantities of aquatic insects had reestablished themselves, and on one stream—formerly rich in bottom fauna—scarcely any could be found. In this particular stream, game fish had been reduced by 80 per cent.

The fish do not necessarily die immediately. In fact, delayed mortality may be more extensive than the immediate kill and, as the Montana biologists discovered, it may go unreported because it occurs after the fishing season. Many deaths occurred in the study streams among autumn spawning fish, including brown trout, brook trout, and whitefish. This is not surprising, because in time of physiological stress the organism, be it fish or man, draws on stored fat for energy. This exposes it to the full lethal effect of the DDT stored in the tissues.

It was therefore more than clear that spraying at the rate of a pound of DDT to the acre posed a serious threat to the fishes in forest streams. Moreover, control of the budworm had not been achieved and many areas were scheduled for respraying. The Montana Fish and Game Department registered strong opposition to further spraying, saying it was ‘not willing to compromise the sport fishery resource for programs of questionable necessity and doubtful success.’ The Department declared, however, that it would continue to cooperate with the Forest Service ‘in determining ways to minimize adverse effects.’

But can such cooperation actually succeed in saving the fish? An experience in British Columbia speaks volumes on this point. There an outbreak of the black-headed budworm had been raging for several years. Forestry officials, fearing that another season’s defoliation might result in severe loss of trees, decided to carry out control operations in 1957. There were many consultations with the Game Department, whose officials were concerned about the salmon runs. The Forest Biology Division agreed to modify the spraying program in every possible way short of destroying its effectiveness, in order to reduce risks to the fish.

Despite these precautions, and despite the fact that a sincere effort was apparently made, in at least four major streams almost 100 per cent of the salmon were killed.

In one of the rivers, the young of a run of 40,000 adult Coho salmon were almost completely annihilated. So were the young stages of several thousand steelhead trout and other species of trout. The Coho salmon has a three-year life cycle and the runs are composed almost entirely of fish of a single age group. Like other species of salmon, the Coho has a strong homing instinct, returning to its natal stream. There will be no repopulation from other streams. This means, then, that every third year the run of salmon into this river will be almost nonexistent, until such time as careful management,

by artificial propagation or other means, has been able to rebuild this commercially important run.

There are ways to solve this problem—to preserve the forests and to save the fishes, too. To assume that we must resign ourselves to turning our waterways into rivers of death is to follow the counsel of despair and defeatism. We must make wider use of alternative methods that are now known, and we must devote our ingenuity and resources to developing others. There are cases on record where natural parasitism has kept the budworm under control more effectively than spraying. Such natural control needs to be utilized to the fullest extent. There are possibilities of using less toxic sprays or, better still, of introducing microorganisms that will cause disease among the budworms without affecting the whole web of forest life. We shall see later what some of these alternative methods are and what they promise. Meanwhile, it is important to realize that chemical spraying of forest insects is neither the only way nor the best way.  

The pesticide threat to fishes may be divided into three parts. One, as we have seen, relates to the fishes of running streams in northern forests and to the single problem of forest spraying. It is confined almost entirely to the effects of DDT. Another is vast, sprawling, and diffuse, for it concerns the many different kinds of fishes—bass, sunfish, trappies, suckers, and others that inhabit many kinds of waters, still or flowing, in many parts of the country. It also concerns almost the whole gamut of insecticides now in agricultural use, although a few principal offenders like endrin, toxaphene, dieldrin, and heptachlor can easily be picked out. Still another problem must now be considered largely in terms of what we may logically suppose will happen in the future, because the studies that will disclose the facts are only beginning to be made. This has to do with the fishes of salt marshes, bays, and estuaries.

It was inevitable that serious destruction of fishes would follow the widespread use of the new organic pesticides. Fishes are almost fantastically sensitive to the chlorinated hydrocarbons that make up the bulk of modern insecticides. And when millions of tons of poisonous chemicals are applied to the surface of the land, it is inevitable that some of them will find their way into the ceaseless cycle of waters moving between land and sea.

Reports of fish kills, some of disastrous proportions, have now become so common that the United States Public Health Service has set up an office to collect such reports from the states as an index of water pollution.

This is a problem that concerns a great many people. Some 25 million Americans look to fishing as a major source of recreation and another 15 million are at least casual anglers. These people spend three billion dollars annually for licenses, tackle, boats, camping equipment, gasoline, and lodgings. Anything that deprives them of their sport will also reach out and affect a large number of economic interests. The commercial fisheries represent such an interest, and even more importantly, an essential source of food. Inland and coastal fisheries (excluding the offshore catch) yield an estimated three billion pounds a year. Yet, as we shall see, the invasion of streams, ponds, rivers, and bays by pesticides is now a threat to both recreational and commercial fishing.

Examples of the destruction of fish by agricultural crop sprayings and dustings are everywhere to be found. In California, for example, the loss of some 60,000 game fish, mostly bluegill and other sunfish, followed an attempt to control the riceleaf miner with dieldrin. In Louisiana 30 or more instances of heavy fish mortality occurred in one year alone (1960) because of the use of endrin in the sugarcane fields. In Pennsylvania fish have been killed in numbers by endrin, used in orchards to combat mice. The use of chlordane for grasshopper control on the high western plains has been followed by the death of many stream fish.

Probably no other agricultural program has been carried out on so large a scale as the dusting and spraying of millions of acres of land in southern United States to control the fire ant. Heptachlor, the chemical chiefly used, is only slightly less toxic to fish than DDT. Dieldrin, another fire ant poison, has a well-documented history of extreme hazard to all aquatic life. Only endrin and toxaphene represent a greater danger to fish.

All areas within the fire ant control area, whether treated with heptachlor or dieldrin, reported disastrous effects on aquatic life. A few excerpts will give the flavor of the reports from biologists who studied the damage: From Texas, ‘Heavy loss of aquatic life despite efforts to protect canals’, ‘Dead fish…were present in all treated water’, ‘Fish kill was heavy and continued for over 3 weeks’. From Alabama, ‘Most adult fish were killed [in Wilcox County] within a few days after treatment,’ ‘The fish in temporary waters and small tributary streams appeared to have been completely eradicated.’

In Louisiana, farmers complained of loss in farm ponds. Along one canal more than 500 dead fish were seen floating or lying on the bank on a stretch of less than a quarter of a mile. In another parish 150 dead sunfish could be found for every 4 that remained alive. Five other species appeared to have been wiped out completely.

In Florida, fish from ponds in a treated area were found to contain residues of heptachlor and a derived chemical, heptachlor epoxide. Included among these fish were sunfish and bass, which of course are favorites of anglers and commonly find their way to the dinner table. Yet the chemicals they contained are among those the Food and Drug Administration considers too dangerous for human consumption, even in minute quantities.

So extensive were the reported kills of fish, frogs, and other life of the waters that the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, a venerable scientific organization devoted to the study of fishes, reptiles, and amphibians, passed a resolution in 1958 calling on the Department of Agriculture and the associated state agencies to cease ‘aerial distribution of heptachlor, dieldrin, and equivalent poisons—before irreparable harm is done.’ The Society called attention to the great variety of species of fish and other forms of life inhabiting the southeastern part of the United States, including species that occur nowhere else in the world. ‘Many of these animals,’ the Society warned, ‘occupy only small areas and therefore might readily be completely exterminated.’

Fishes of the southern states have also suffered heavily from insecticides used against cotton insects. The summer of 1950 was a season of disaster in the cotton-growing country of northern Alabama. Before that year, only limited use had been made of organic insecticides for the control of the boll weevil. But in 1950 there were many weevils because of a series of mild winters, and so an estimated 80 to 95 per cent of the farmers, on the urging of the county agents, turned to the use of insecticides. The chemical most popular with the farmers was toxaphene, one of the most destructive to fishes.

Rains were frequent and heavy that summer. They washed the chemicals into the streams, and as this happened the farmers applied more. An average acre of cotton that year received 63 pounds of toxaphene. Some farmers used as much as 200 pounds per acre; one, in an extraordinary excess of zeal, applied more than a quarter of a ton to the acre.

The results could easily have been foreseen. What happened in Flint Creek, flowing through 50 miles of Alabama cotton country before emptying into Wheeler Reservoir, was typical of the region. On August 1, torrents of rain descended on the Flint Creek watershed. In trickles, in rivulets, and finally in floods the water poured off the land into the streams. The water level rose six inches in Flint Creek. By the next morning it was obvious that a great deal more than rain had been carried into the stream. Fish swam about in aimless circles near the surface. Sometimes one would throw itself out of the water onto the bank. They could easily be caught; one farmer picked up several and took them to a spring-fed pool. There, in the pure water, these few recovered. But in the stream dead fish floated down all day. This was but the prelude to more, for each rain washed more of the insecticide into the river, killing more fish. The rain of August 10 resulted in such a heavy fish kill throughout the river that few remained to become victims of the next surge of poison into the stream, which occurred on August 15. But evidence of the deadly presence of the chemicals was obtained by placing test goldfish in cages in the river; they were dead within a day.

The doomed fish of Flint Creek included large numbers of white crappies, a favorite among anglers. Dead bass and sunfish were also found, occurring abundantly in Wheeler Reservoir, into which the creek flows. All the rough-fish population of these waters was destroyed also—the carp, buffalo, drum, gizzard shad, and catfish. None showed signs of disease—only the erratic movements of the dying and a strange deep wine color of the gills.

In the warm enclosed waters of farm ponds, conditions are very likely to be lethal for fish when insecticides are applied in the vicinity. As many examples show, the poison is carried in by rains and runoff from surrounding lands. Sometimes the ponds receive not only contaminated runoff but also a direct dose as crop-dusting pilots neglect to shut off the duster in passing over a pond. Even without such complications, normal agricultural use subjects fish to far heavier concentrations of chemicals than would be required to kill them. In other words, a marked reduction in the poundages used would hardly alter the lethal situation, for applications of over 0.1 pound per acre to the pond itself are generally considered hazardous. And the poison, once introduced, is hard to get rid of. One pond that had been treated with DDT to remove unwanted shiners remained so poisonous through repeated drainings and flushings that it killed 94 per cent of

the sunfish with which it was later stocked. Apparently the chemical remained in the mud of the pond bottom.

Conditions are evidently no better now than when the modern insecticides first came into use. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Department stated in 1961 that reports of fish losses in farm ponds and small lakes had been coming in at the rate of at least one a week, and that such reports were increasing. The conditions usually responsible for these losses in Oklahoma were those made familiar by repetition over the years: the application of insecticides to crops, a heavy rain, and poison washed into the ponds.

In some parts of the world the cultivation of fish in ponds provides an indispensable source of food. In such places the use of insecticides without regard for the effects on fish creates immediate problems. In Rhodesia, for example, the young of an important food fish, the Kafue bream, are killed by exposure to only 0.04 parts per million of DDT in shallow pools. Even smaller doses of many other insecticides would be lethal. The shallow waters in which these fish live are favorable mosquito-breeding places. The problem of controlling mosquitoes and at the same time conserving a fish important in the Central African diet has obviously not been solved satisfactorily.

Milkfish farming in the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and India faces a similar problem. The milkfish is cultivated in shallow ponds along the coasts of these countries. Schools of young suddenly appear in the coastal waters (from no one knows where) and are scooped up and placed in impoundments, where they complete their growth. So important is this fish as a source of animal protein for the rice-eating millions of Southeast Asia and India that the Pacific Science Congress has recommended an international effort to search for the now unknown spawning grounds, in order to develop the farming of these fish on a massive scale. Yet spraying has been permitted to cause heavy losses in existing impoundments. In the Philippines aerial spraying for mosquito control has cost pond owners dearly. In one such pond containing 120,000 milkfish, more than half the fish died after a spray plane had passed over, in spite of desperate efforts by the owner to dilute the poison by flooding the pond.

One of the most spectacular fish kills of recent years occurred in the Colorado River below Austin, Texas, in 1961. Shortly after daylight on Sunday morning, January 15, dead fish appeared in the new Town Lake in Austin and in the river for a distance of about 5 miles below the lake. None had been seen the day before. On Monday there were reports of dead fish 50 miles downstream. By this time it was clear that a wave of some poisonous substance was moving down in the river water. By January 21, fish were being killed 100 miles downstream near La Grange, and a week later the chemicals were doing their lethal work 200 miles below Austin. During the last week of January the locks on the Intracoastal Waterway were closed to exclude the toxic waters from Matagorda Bay and divert them into the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, investigators in Austin noticed an odor associated with the insecticides chlordane and toxaphene. It was especially strong in the discharge from one of the storm sewers. This sewer had in the past been associated with trouble from industrial wastes, and when officers of the Texas Game and Fish Commission followed it back from the lake, they noticed an odor like that of benzene hexachloride at all openings as far back as a feeder line from a chemical plant. Among the major products of this plant were DDT, benzene hexachloride, chlordane, and toxaphene, as well as smaller quantities of other insecticides. The manager of the plant admitted that quantities of powdered insecticide had been washed into the storm sewer recently and, more significantly, he acknowledged that such disposal of insecticide spillage and residues had been common practice for the past 10 years.

On searching further, the fishery officers found other plants where rains or ordinary clean-up waters would carry insecticides into the sewer. The fact that provided the final link in the chain, however, was the discovery that a few days before the water in lake and river became lethal to fish the entire storm-sewer system had been flushed out with several million gallons of water under high pressure to clear it of debris. This flushing had undoubtedly released insecticides lodged in the accumulation of gravel, sand, and rubble and carried them into the lake and thence to the river, where chemical tests later established their presence.

As the lethal mass drifted down the Colorado it carried death before it. For 140 miles downstream from the lake the kill of fish must have been almost complete, for when seines were used later in an effort to discover whether any fish had escaped they came up empty. Dead fish of 27 species were observed, totaling about 1000 pounds to a mile of riverbank. There were channel cats, the chief game fish of the river. There were blue and flathead catfish, bullheads, four species of sunfish, shiners, dace, stone rollers, largemouth bass, carp, mullet, suckers. There were eels, gar, carp, river carpsuckers, gizzard shad, and buffalo. Among them were some of the patriarchs of the river, fish that by their size must have been of great age—many flathead catfish weighing over 25 pounds, some of 60 pounds reportedly picked up by local residents along the river, and a giant blue catfish officially recorded as weighing 84 pounds.

The Game and Fish Commission predicted that even without further pollution the pattern of the fish population of the river would be altered for years. Some species—those existing at the limits of their natural range—might never be able to re-establish themselves, and the others could do so only with the aid of extensive stocking operations by the state.

This much of the Austin fish disaster is known, but there was almost certainly a sequel. The toxic river water was still possessed of its death-dealing power after passing more than 200 miles downstream. It was regarded as too dangerous to be admitted to the waters of Matagorda Bay, with its oyster beds and shrimp fisheries, and so the whole toxic outflow was diverted to the waters of the open Gulf. What were its effects there? And what of the outflow of scores of other rivers, carrying contaminants perhaps equally lethal?

At present our answers to these questions are for the most part only conjectures, but there is growing concern about the role of pesticide pollution in estuaries, salt marshes, bays, and other coastal waters. Not only do these areas receive the contaminated discharge of rivers but all too commonly they are sprayed directly in efforts to control mosquitoes or other insects.

Nowhere has the effect of pesticides on the life of salt marshes, estuaries, and all quiet inlets from the sea been more graphically demonstrated than on the eastern coast of Florida, in the Indian River country. There, in the spring of 1955, some 2000 acres of salt marsh in St. Lucie County were treated with dieldrin in an attempt to eliminate the larvae of the sandfly. The concentration used was one pound of active ingredient to the acre. The effect on the life of the waters was catastrophic. Scientists from the Entomology Research Center of the State Board of Health surveyed the carnage after the spraying and reported that the fish kill was ‘substantially complete’. Everywhere dead fishes littered the shores. From the air sharks could be seen moving in, attracted by the helpless and dying fishes in the water. No species was spared. Among the dead were mullets, snook, mojarras, gambusia.

The minimum immediate overall kill throughout the marshes, exclusive of the Indian River shoreline, was 20-30 tons of fishes, or about 1,175,000 fishes, of at least 30 species [reported R. W. Harrington, Jr. and W.L. Bidlingmayer of the survey team].  

Mollusks seemed to be unharmed by dieldrin. Crustaceans were virtually exterminated throughout the area. The entire aquatic crab population was apparently destroyed and the fiddler crabs, all but annihilated, survived temporarily only in patches of marsh evidently missed by the pellets.

The larger game and food fishes succumbed most rapidly…Crabs net upon and destroyed the moribund fishes, but the next day were dead themselves. Snails continued to devour fish carcasses. After two weeks, no trace remained of the litter of dead fishes.

The same melancholy picture was painted by the late Dr. Herbert R. Mills from his observations in Tampa Bay on the opposite coast of Florida, where the National Audubon Society operates a sanctuary for seabirds in the area including Whiskey Stump Key. The sanctuary ironically became a poor refuge after the local health authorities undertook a campaign to wipe out the salt-marsh mosquitoes. Again fishes and crabs were the principal victims. The fiddler crab, that small and picturesque crustacean whose hordes move over mud flats or sand flats like grazing cattle, has no defense against the sprayers. After successive sprayings during the summer and fall months (some areas were sprayed as many as 16 times), the state of the fiddler crabs was summed up by Dr. Mills: ‘A progressive scarcity of fiddlers had by this time become apparent. Where there should have been in the neighborhood of 100,000 fiddlers under the tide and weather conditions of the day [October 12] there were not over 100 which could be seen anywhere on the beach, and these were all dead or sick, quivering, twitching, stumbling, scarcely able to crawl; although in neighboring unsprayed areas fiddlers were plentiful.’

The place of the fiddler crab in the ecology of the world it inhabits is a necessary one, not easily filled. It is an important source of food for many animals. Coastal raccoons feed on them. So do marsh-inhabiting birds like the clapper rail, shore- birds, and even visiting seabirds. In the New Jersey salt marsh sprayed with DDT, the normal population of laughing gulls was decreased by 85 per cent for several weeks, presumably because the birds could not find sufficient food after the spraying. The marsh fiddlers are important in other ways as well, being useful scavengers and aerating the mud of the marshes by their extensive burrowings. They also furnish quantities of bait for fishermen.  

The fiddler crab is not the only creature of tidal marsh and estuary to be threatened by pesticides; others of more obvious importance to man are endangered. The famous blue crab of the  Chesapeake Bay and other Atlantic Coast areas is an example. These crabs are so highly susceptible  to insecticides that every spraying of creeks, ditches, and ponds in tidal marshes kills most of the crabs living there. Not only do the local crabs die, but others moving into a sprayed area from the sea succumb to the lingering poison. And sometimes poisoning may be indirect, as in the marshes near Indian River, where scavenger crabs attacked the dying fishes, but soon themselves succumbed to the poison. Less is known about the hazard to the lobster. However, it belongs to the same group of arthropods as the blue crab, has essentially the same physiology, and would presumably suffer the same effects. This would be true also of the stone crab and other crustaceans which have direct economic importance as human food.

The inshore waters—the bays, the sounds, the river estuaries, the tidal marshes—form an ecological unit of the utmost importance. They are linked so intimately and indispensably with the lives of many fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans that were they no longer habitable these seafoods would disappear from our tables.

Even among fishes that range widely in coastal waters, many depend upon protected inshore areas to serve as nursery and feeding grounds for their young. Baby tarpon are abundant in all that labyrinth of mangrove-lined streams and canals bordering the lower third of the western coast of Florida. On the Atlantic Coast the sea trout, croaker, spot, and drum spawn on sandy shoals off the inlets between the islands or ‘banks’ that lie like a protective chain off much of the coast south of New York. The young fish hatch and are carried through the inlets by the tides. In the bays and sounds— Currituck, Pamlico, Bogue, and many others—they find abundant food and grow rapidly. Without these nursery areas of warm protected, food-rich waters the populations of these and many other species could not be maintained. Yet we are allowing pesticides to enter them via the rivers and by direct spraying over bordering marshlands. And the early stages of these fishes, even more than the adults, are especially susceptible to direct chemical poisoning.

Shrimp, too, depend on inshore feeding grounds for their young. One abundant and widely ranging species supports the entire commercial fishery of the southern Atlantic and Gulf states. Although spawning occurs at sea, the young come into the estuaries and bays when a few weeks old to undergo successive molts and changes of form. There they remain from May or June until fall, feeding on the bottom detritus. In the entire period of their inshore life, the welfare of the shrimp populations and of the industry they support depends upon favorable conditions in the estuaries.

Do pesticides represent a threat to the shrimp fisheries and to  the supply for the markets? The answer may be contained in recent laboratory experiments carried out by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. The insecticide tolerance of young commercial shrimp just past larval life was found to be exceedingly low—measured in parts per billion instead of the more commonly used standard  of parts per million. For example, half the shrimp in one experiment were killed by dieldrin at a concentration of only 15 per billion. Other chemicals were even more toxic. Endrin, always one of the most deadly of the pesticides, killed half the shrimp at a concentration of only half of one part per billion.

The threat to oysters and clams is multiple. Again, the young stages are most vulnerable. These shellfish inhabit the bottoms of bays and sounds and tidal rivers from New England to Texas and sheltered areas of the Pacific Coast. Although sedentary in adult life, they discharge their spawn into the sea, where the young are free-living for a period of several weeks. On a summer day a fine-meshed tow net drawn behind a boat will collect, along with the other drifting plant and animal life that make up the plankton, the infinitely small, fragile-as-glass larvae of oysters and clams. No larger than grains of dust, these transparent larvae swim about in the surface waters, feeding on the microscopic plant life of the plankton. If the crop of minute sea vegetation fails, the young shellfish will starve. Yet pesticides may well destroy substantial quantities of plankton. Some of the herbicides in common use on lawns, cultivated fields, and roadsides and even in coastal marshes are extraordinarily toxic to the plant plankton which the larval mollusks use as food—some at only a few parts per billion.

The delicate larvae themselves are killed by very small quantities of many of the common insecticides. Even exposures to less than lethal quantities may in the end cause death of the larvae, for inevitably the growth rate is retarded. This prolongs the period the larvae must spend in the hazardous world of the plankton and so decreases the chance they will live to adulthood.

For adult mollusks there is apparently less danger of direct poisoning, at least by some of the pesticides. This is not necessarily reassuring, however. Oysters and clams may concentrate these poisons in their digestive organs and other tissues. Both types of shellfish are normally eaten whole and sometimes raw. Dr. Philip Butler of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries has pointed out an ominous parallel in that we may find ourselves in the same situation as the robins. The robins, he reminds us, did not die as a direct result of the spraying of DDT. They died because they had eaten earthworms that had already concentrated the pesticides in their tissues.

.    .    .

Although the sudden death of thousands of fish or crustaceans in some stream or pond as the direct and visible effect of insect control is dramatic and alarming, these unseen and as yet largely unknown and unmeasurable effects of pesticides reaching estuaries indirectly in streams and rivers may in the end be more disastrous. The whole situation is beset with questions for which there are at present no satisfactory answers. We know that pesticides contained in runoff from farms and forests are now being carried to the sea in the waters of many and perhaps all of the major rivers. But we do not know the identity of all the chemicals or their total quantity, and we do not presently have any dependable tests for identifying them in highly diluted state once they have reached the sea. Although we know that the chemicals have almost certainly undergone change during the long period of transit, we do not know whether the altered chemical is more toxic than the original or less. Another almost unexplored area is the question of interactions between chemicals, a question that becomes especially urgent when they enter the marine environment where so many different minerals are subjected to mixing and transport. All of these questions urgently require the precise answers that only extensive research can provide, yet funds for such purposes are pitifully small.

The fisheries of fresh and salt water are a resource of great importance, involving the interests and the welfare of a very large number of people. That they are now seriously threatened by the chemicals entering our waters can no longer be doubted. If we would divert to constructive research even a small fraction of the money spent each year on the development of ever more toxic sprays, we could find ways to use less dangerous materials and to keep poisons out of our waterways. When will the public become sufficiently aware of the facts to demand such action?



10.   Indiscriminately from the Skies


FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS over farmlands and forests the scope of aerial spraying has widened and its volume has increased so that it has become what a British ecologist recently called ‘an amazing rain of death’ upon the surface of the earth. Our attitude towards poisons has undergone a subtle change. Once they were kept in containers marked with skull and crossbones; the infrequent occasions of their use were marked with utmost care that they should come in contact with the target and with nothing else. With the development of the new organic insecticides and the abundance of surplus planes after the Second World War, all this was forgotten. Although today’s poisons are more dangerous than any known before, they have amazingly become something to be showered down indiscriminately from the skies. Not only the target insect or plant, but anything—human or nonhuman—within range of the chemical fallout may know the sinister touch of the poison. Not only forests and cultivated fields are sprayed, but towns and cities as well.

A good many people now have misgivings about the aerial distribution of lethal chemicals over millions of acres, and two mass-spraying campaigns undertaken in the late 1950s have done much to increase these doubts. These were the campaigns against the gypsy moth in the northeastern states and the fire ant in the South. Neither is a native insect but both have been in this country for many years without creating a situation calling for desperate measures. Yet drastic action was suddenly taken against them, under the end-justifies-the-means philosophy that has too long directed the control divisions of our Department of Agriculture.

The gypsy moth program shows what a vast amount of damage can he done when reckless large-scale treatment is substituted for local and moderate control. The campaign against the fire ant is a prime example of a campaign based on gross exaggeration of the need for control, blunderingly launched without scientific knowledge of the dosage of poison required to destroy the target or of its effects on other life. Neither program has achieved its goal.

.    .    .

The gypsy moth, a native of Europe, has been in the United States for nearly a hundred years. In 1869 a French scientist, Leopold Trouvelot, accidentally allowed a few of these moths to escape from his laboratory in Medford, Massachusetts, where he was attempting to cross them with silkworms. Little by little the gypsy moth has spread throughout New England. The primary agent of its progressive spread is the wind; the larval, or caterpillar, stage is extremely light and can be carried to considerable heights and over great distances. Another means is the shipment of plants carrying the egg masses, the form in which the species exists over winter. The gypsy moth, which in its larval stage attacks the foliage of oak trees and a few other hardwoods for a few weeks each spring, now occurs in all the New England states. It also occurs sporadically in New Jersey, where it was introduced in 1911 on a shipment of spruce trees from Holland, and in Michigan, where its method of entry is not known. The New England hurricane of 1938 carried it into Pennsylvania and New York, but the Adirondacks have generally served as a barrier to its westward advance, being forested with species not attractive to it.

The task of confining the gypsy moth to the northeastern corner of the country has been accomplished by a variety of methods, and in the nearly one hundred years since its arrival on this continent the fear that it would invade the great hardwood forests of the southern Appalachians has not been justified. Thirteen parasites and predators were imported from abroad and successfully established in New England. The Agriculture Department itself has credited these importations with appreciably reducing the frequency and destructiveness of gypsy moth outbreaks. This natural control, plus quarantine measures and local spraying, achieved what the Department in 1955 described as ‘outstanding restriction of distribution and damage’.

Yet only a year after expressing satisfaction with the state of affairs, its Plant Pest Control Division embarked on a program calling for the blanket spraying of several million acres a year with the announced intention of eventually ‘eradicating’ the gypsy moth. (‘Eradication’ means the complete and final extinction or extermination of a species throughout its range. Yet as successive programs have failed, the Department has found it necessary to speak of second or third ‘eradications’ of the same species in the same area.)

The Department’s all-out chemical war on the gypsy moth began on an ambitious scale. In 1956 nearly a million acres were sprayed in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, and New York. Many complaints of damage were made by people in the sprayed areas. Conservationists became increasingly disturbed as the pattern of spraying huge areas began to establish itself. When plans were announced for spraying 3 million acres in 1957 opposition became even stronger. State and federal agriculture officials characteristically shrugged off individual complaints as unimportant.

The Long Island area included within the gypsy moth spraying in 1957 consisted chiefly of heavily populated towns and suburbs and of some coastal areas with bordering salt marsh. Nassau County, Long Island, is the most densely settled county in New York apart from New York City itself. In what seems the height of absurdity, the ‘threat of infestation of the New York City metropolitan area’ has been cited as an important justification of the program. The gypsy moth is a forest insect, certainly not an inhabitant of cities. Nor does it live in meadows, cultivated fields, gardens, or marshes. Nevertheless, the planes hired by the United States Department of Agriculture and the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets in 1957 showered down the prescribed DDT-in-fuel-oil with impartiality. They sprayed truck gardens and dairy farms, fish ponds and salt marshes. They sprayed the quarter-acre lots of suburbia, drenching a housewife making a desperate effort to cover her garden before the roaring plane reached her, and showering insecticide over children at play and commuters at railway stations. At Setauket a fine quarter horse drank from a trough in a field which the planes had sprayed; ten hours later it was dead. Automobiles were spotted with the oily mixture; flowers and shrubs were ruined. Birds, fish, crabs, and useful insects were killed.

A group of Long Island citizens led by the world-famous ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy had sought a court injunction to prevent the 1957 spraying. Denied a preliminary injunction, the protesting citizens had to suffer the prescribed drenching with DDT, but thereafter persisted in efforts to obtain a permanent injunction. But because the act had already been performed the courts held that the petition for an injunction was ‘moot’. The case was carried all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it. Justice William O. Douglas, strongly dissenting from the decision not to review the case, held that ‘the alarms that many experts and responsible officials have raised about the perils of DDT underline the public importance of this case.’

The suit brought by the Long Island citizens at least served to focus public attention on the growing trend to mass application of insecticides, and on the power and inclination of the control agencies to disregard supposedly inviolate property rights of private citizens.

The contamination of milk and of farm produce in the course of the gypsy moth spraying came as an unpleasant surprise to many people. What happened on the 200-acre Waller farm in northern Westchester County, New York, was revealing. Mrs. Waller had specifically requested Agriculture officials not to spray her property, because it would be impossible to avoid the pastures in spraying the woodlands. She offered to have the land checked for gypsy moths and to have any infestation destroyed by spot spraying. Although she was assured that no farms would be sprayed, her property received two direct sprayings and, in addition, was twice subjected to drifting spray. Milk samples taken from the Wallers’ purebred Guernsey cows 48 hours later contained DDT in the amount of 14 parts per million. Forage samples from fields where the cows had grazed were of course contaminated also. Although the county Health Department was notified, no instructions were given that the milk should not be marketed. This situation is unfortunately typical of the lack of consumer protection that is all too common. Although the Food and Drug Administration permits no residues of pesticides in milk, its restrictions are not only inadequately policed but they apply solely to interstate shipments. State and county officials are under no compulsion to follow the federal pesticides tolerances unless local laws happen to conform—and they seldom do.

Truck gardeners also suffered. Some leaf crops were so burned and spotted as to be unmarketable. Others carried heavy residues; a sample of peas analyzed at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station contained 14 to 20 parts per million of DDT. The legal maximum is 7 parts per million. Growers therefore had to sustain heavy losses or find themselves in the position of selling produce carrying illegal residues. Some of them sought and collected damages.

As the aerial spraying of DDT increased, so did the number of suits filed in the courts. Among them were suits brought by beekeepers in several areas of New York State. Even before the 1957 spraying, the beekeepers had suffered heavily from use of DDT in orchards. ‘Up to 1953 I had regarded as gospel everything that emanated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the agricultural colleges,’ one of them remarked bitterly. But in May of that year this man lost 800 colonies after the state had sprayed a large area. So widespread and heavy was the loss that 14 other beekeepers joined him in suing the state for a quarter of a million dollars in damages. Another beekeeper, whose 400 colonies were incidental targets of the 1957 spray, reported that 100 per cent of the field force of bees (the workers out gathering nectar and pollen for the hives) had been killed in forested areas and up to 50 per cent in farming areas sprayed less intensively. ‘It is a very distressful thing,’ he wrote, ‘to walk into a yard in May and not hear a bee buzz.’

The gypsy moth programs were marked by many acts of irresponsibility. Because the spray planes were paid by the gallon rather than by the acre there was no effort to be conservative, and many properties were sprayed not once but several times. Contracts for aerial spraying were in at least one case awarded to an out-of-state firm with no local address, which had not complied with the legal requirement of registering with state officials for the purpose of establishing legal responsibility. In this exceedingly slippery situation, citizens who suffered direct financial loss from damage to apple

orchards or bees discovered that there was no one to sue.

After the disastrous 1957 spraying the program was abruptly and drastically curtailed, with vague statements about ‘evaluating’ previous work and testing alternative insecticides. Instead of the 3½ million acres sprayed in 1957, the treated areas fell to ½ million in 1958 and to about 100,000 acres in 1959, 1960, and 1961. During this interval, the control agencies must have found news from Long Island disquieting. The gypsy moth had reappeared there in numbers. The expensive spraying operation that had cost the Department dearly in public confidence and good will—the operation that was intended to wipe out the gypsy moth for ever—had in reality accomplished nothing at all.

.    .    .

Meanwhile, the Department’s Plant Pest Control men had temporarily forgotten gypsy moths, for they had been busy launching an even more ambitious program in the South. The word ‘eradication’ still came easily from the Department’s mimeograph machines; this time the press releases were promising the eradication of the fire ant.

The fire ant, an insect named for its fiery sting, seems to have entered the United States from South America by way of the port of Mobile, Alabama, where it was discovered shortly after the end of the First World War. By 1928 it had spread into the suburbs of Mobile and thereafter continued an invasion that has now carried it into most of the southern states.

During most of the forty-odd years since its arrival in the United States the fire ant seems to have attracted little attention. The states where it was most abundant considered it a nuisance, chiefly because it builds large nests or mounds a foot or more high. These may hamper the operation of farm machinery. But only two states listed it among their 20 most important insect pests, and these placed it near the bottom of the list. No official or private concern seems to have been felt about the fire ant as a menace to crops or livestock.

With the development of chemicals of broad lethal powers, there came a sudden change in the official attitude toward the fire ant. In 1957 the United States Department of Agriculture launched one of the most remarkable publicity campaigns in its history. The fire ant suddenly became the target of a barrage of government releases, motion pictures, and government-inspired stories portraying it as a despoiler of southern agriculture and a killer of birds, livestock, and man. A mighty campaign was announced, in which the federal government in cooperation with the afflicted states would ultimately treat some 20,000,000 acres in nine southern states.

‘United States pesticide makers appear to have tapped a sales bonanza in the increasing numbers of broad-scale pest elimination programs conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,’ cheerfully reported one trade journal in 1958, as the fire ant program got under way.

Never has any pesticide program been so thoroughly and deservedly damned by practically everyone except the

beneficiaries of this ‘sales bonanza’. It is an outstanding example of an ill-conceived, badly executed, and thoroughly detrimental experiment in the mass control of insects, an experiment so expensive in dollars, in destruction of animal life, and in loss of public confidence in the Agriculture Department that it is incomprehensible that any funds should still be devoted to it.

Congressional support of the project was initially won by representations that were later discredited. The fire ant was pictured as a serious threat to southern agriculture through destruction of crops and to wildlife because of attacks on the young of ground-nesting birds. Its sting was said to make it a serious menace to human health.

Just how sound were these claims? The statements made by Department witnesses seeking appropriations were not in accord with those contained in key publications of the Agriculture Department. The 1957 bulletin Insecticide Recommendations…for the Control of Insects Attacking Crops and Livestock did not so much as mention the fire ant—an extraordinary omission if the Department believes its own propaganda. Moreover, its encyclopedic Yearbook for 1952, which was devoted to insects, contained only one short paragraph on the fire ant out of its half-million words of text.

Against the Department’s undocumented claim that the fire ant destroys crops and attacks livestock is the careful study of the Agricultural Experiment Station in the state that has had the most intimate experience with this insect, Alabama. According to Alabama scientists, ‘damage to plants in general is rare.’ Dr. F. S. Arant, an entomologist at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute and in 1961 president of the Entomological Society of America, states that his department ‘has not received a single report of damage to plants by ants in the past five years…No damage to livestock has been observed.’ These men, who have actually observed the ants in the field and in the laboratory, say that the fire ants feed chiefly on a variety of other insects, many of them considered harmful to man’s interests. Fire ants have been observed picking larvae of the boll weevil off cotton. Their mound-building activities serve a useful purpose in aerating and draining the soil. The Alabama studies have been substantiated by investigations at the Mississippi State University, and are far more impressive than the Agriculture Department’s evidence, apparently based either on conversations with farmers, who may easily mistake one ant for another, or on old research. Some entomologists believe that the ant’s food habits have changed as it has become more abundant, so that observations made several decades ago have little value now.

The claim that the ant is a menace to health and life also bears considerable modification. The Agriculture Department sponsored a propaganda movie (to gain support for its program) in which horror scenes were built around the fire ant’s sting. Admittedly this is painful and one is well advised to avoid being stung, just as one ordinarily avoids the sting of wasp or bee. Severe reactions may occasionally occur in sensitive individuals, and medical literature records one death possibly, though not definitely, attributable to fire ant venom. In contrast to this, the Office of Vital Statistics records 33 deaths in 1959 alone from the sting of bees and wasps. Yet no one seems to have proposed ‘eradicating’ these insects.

Again, local evidence is most convincing. Although the fire ant has inhabited Alabama for 40 years and is most heavily concentrated there, the Alabama State Health Officer declares that ‘there has never been recorded in Alabama a human death resulting from the bites of imported fire ants,’ and considers the medical cases resulting from the bites of fire ants ‘incidental’. Ant mounds on lawns or playgrounds may create a situation where children are likely to be stung, but this is hardly an excuse for drenching millions of acres with poisons. These situations can easily be handled by individual treatment of the mounds.

Damage to game birds was also alleged, without supporting evidence. Certainly a man well qualified to speak on this issue is the leader of the Wildlife Research Unit at Auburn, Alabama, Dr. Maurice F. Baker, who has had many years’ experience in the area. But Dr. Baker’s opinion is directly opposite to the claims of the Agriculture Department. He declares: ‘In south Alabama and northwest Florida we are able to have excellent hunting and bobwhite populations coexistent with heavy populations of the imported fire ant…in the almost 40 years that south Alabama has had the fire ant, game populations have shown a steady and very substantial increase. Certainly, if the imported fire ant were a serious menace to wildlife, these conditions could not exist.’

What would happen to wildlife as a result of the insecticide used against the ants was another matter. The chemicals to be used were dieldrin and heptachlor, both relatively new. There was little experience of field use for either, and no one knew what their effects would be on wild birds, fishes, or mammals when applied on a massive scale. It was known, however, that both poisons were many times more toxic than DDT, which had been used by that time for approximately a decade, and had killed some birds and many fish even at a rate of 1 pound per acre. And the dosage of dieldrin and heptachlor was heavier—2 pounds to the acre under most conditions, or 3 pounds of dieldrin if the white-fringed beetle was also to be controlled. In terms of their effects on birds, the prescribed use of heptachlor would be equivalent to 20 pounds of DDT to the acre, that of dieldrin to 120 pounds!

Urgent protests were made by most of the state conservation departments, by national conservation agencies, and by ecologists and even by some entomologists, calling upon the then Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Benson, to delay the program at least until some research had been done to determine the effects of heptachlor and dieldrin on wild and domestic animals and to find the minimum amount that would control the ants. The protests were ignored and the program was launched in 1958. A million acres were treated the first year. It was clear that any research would be in the nature of a post mortem.

As the program continued, facts began to accumulate from studies made by biologists of state and federal wildlife agencies and several universities. The studies revealed losses running all the way up to complete destruction of wildlife on some of the treated areas. Poultry, livestock, and pets were also killed. The Agriculture Department brushed away all

evidence of damage as exaggerated and misleading.

The facts, however, continue to accumulate. In Hardin County, Texas, for example, opossums, armadillos, and an abundant raccoon population virtually disappeared after the chemical was laid down. Even the second autumn after treatment these animals were scarce. The few raccoons then found in the area carried residues of the chemical in their tissues.

Dead birds found in the treated areas had absorbed or swallowed the poisons used against the fire ants, a fact clearly shown by chemical analysis of their tissues. (The only bird surviving in any numbers was the house sparrow, which in other areas too has given some evidence that it may be relatively immune.) On a tract in Alabama treated in 1959 half of the birds were killed. Species that live on the ground or frequent low vegetation suffered 100 per cent mortality. Even a year after treatment, a spring die-off of songbirds occurred and much good nesting territory lay silent and unoccupied. In Texas, dead blackbirds, dickcissels, and meadowlarks were found at the nests, and many nests were deserted. When specimens of dead birds from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida were sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service for analysis, more than 90 per cent were found to contain residues of dieldrin or a form of heptachlor, in amounts up to 38 parts per million.

Woodcocks, which winter in Louisiana but breed in the North, now carry the taint of the fire ant poisons in their bodies. The source of this contamination is clear. Woodcocks feed heavily on earthworms, which they probe for with their long bills. Surviving worms in Louisiana were found to have as much as 20 parts per million of heptachlor in their tissues 6 to 10 months after treatment of the area. A year later they had up to 10 parts per million. The consequences of the sublethal poisoning of the woodcock are now seen in a marked decline in the proportion of young birds to adults, first observed in the season after fire ant treatments began.

Some of the most upsetting news for southern sportsmen concerned the bobwhite quail. This bird, a ground nester and forager, was all but eliminated on treated areas. In Alabama, for example, biologists of the Alabama Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit conducted a preliminary census of the quail population in a 3600-acre area that was scheduled for treatment. Thirteen resident coveys—121 quail—ranged over the area. Two weeks after treatment only dead quail could be found. All specimens sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service for analysis were found to contain insecticides in amounts sufficient to cause their death. The Alabama findings were duplicated in Texas, where a 2500-acre area treated with heptachlor lost all of its quail. Along with the quail went 90 per cent of the songbirds. Again, analysis revealed the presence of heptachlor in the tissues of dead birds.

In addition to quail, wild turkeys were seriously reduced by the fire ant program. Although 80 turkeys had been counted on an area in Wilcox County, Alabama, before heptachlor was applied, none could be found the summer after treatment—none, that is, except a clutch of unhatched eggs and one dead poult. The wild turkeys may have suffered the same fate as their domestic brethren, for turkeys on farms in the area treated with chemicals also produced few young. Few eggs hatched and almost no young survived. This did not happen on nearby untreated areas.

The fate of the turkeys was by no means unique. One of the most widely known and respected wildlife biologists in the country, Dr. Clarence Cottam, called on some of the farmers whose property had been treated. Besides remarking that ‘all the little tree birds’ seemed to have disappeared after the land had been treated, most of these people reported losses of livestock, poultry, and household pets. One man was ‘irate against the control workers,’ Dr. Cottam reported, ‘as he said he buried or otherwise disposed of 19 carcasses of his cows that had been killed by the poison and he knew of three or four additional cows that died as a result of the same treatment. Calves died that had been given only milk since birth.’

The people Dr. Cottam interviewed were puzzled by what had happened in the months following the treatment of their land. One woman told him she had set several hens after the surrounding land had been covered with poison, ‘and for reasons she did not understand very few young were hatched or survived.’ Another farmer ‘raises hogs and for fully nine months after the broadcast of poisons, he could raise no young pigs. The litters were born dead or they died after birth.’ A similar report came from another, who said that out of 37 litters that might have numbered as many as 250 young, only 31 little pigs survived. This man had also been quite unable to raise chickens since the land was poisoned.

The Department of Agriculture has consistently denied livestock losses related to the fire ant program. However, a veterinarian in Bainbridge, Georgia, Dr. Otis L. Poitevint, who was called upon to treat many of the affected animals, has summarized his reasons for attributing the deaths to the insecticide as follows. Within a period of two weeks to several months after the fire ant poison was applied, cattle, goats, horses, chickens, and birds and other wildlife began to suffer an often fatal disease of the nervous system. It affected only animals that had access to contaminated food or water. Stabled animals were not affected. The condition was seen only in areas treated for fire ants. Laboratory tests for disease were negative. The symptoms observed by Dr. Poitevint and other veterinarians were those described in authoritative texts as indicating poisoning by dieldrin or heptachlor.

Dr. Poitevint also described an interesting case of a two-month-old calf that showed symptoms of poisoning by heptachlor. The animal was subjected to exhaustive laboratory tests. The only significant finding was the discovery of 79 parts per million of heptachlor in its fat. But it was five months since the poison had been applied. Did the calf get it directly from grazing or indirectly from its mother’s milk or even before birth? ‘If from the milk,’ asked Dr. Poitevint, ‘why were not special precautions taken to protect our children who drank milk from local dairies?’

Dr. Poitevint’s report brings up a significant problem about the contamination of milk. The area included in the fire ant program is predominantly fields and croplands. What about the dairy cattle that graze on these lands? In treated fields the grasses will inevitably carry residues of heptachlor in one of its forms, and if the residues are eaten by the cows the poison will appear in the milk. This direct transmission into milk had been demonstrated experimentally for heptachlor in 1955, long before the control program was undertaken, and was later reported for dieldrin, also used in the fire ant program.

The Department of Agriculture’s annual publications now list heptachlor and dieldrin among the chemicals that make forage plants unsuitable for feeding to dairy animals or animals being finished for slaughter, yet the control divisions of the Department promote programs that spread heptachlor and dieldrin over substantial areas of grazing land in the South. Who is safeguarding the consumer to see that no residues of dieldrin or heptachlor are appearing in milk? The United States Department of Agriculture would doubtless answer that it has advised farmers to keep milk cows out of treated pastures for 30 to 90 days. Given the small size of many of the farms and the largescale nature of the program—much of the chemical applied by planes—it is extremely doubtful that this recommendation was followed or could be. Nor is the prescribed period adequate in view of the persistent nature of the residues.

The Food and Drug Administration, although frowning on the presence of any pesticide residues in milk, has little authority in this situation. In most of the states included in the fire ant program the dairy industry is small and its products do not cross state lines. Protection of the milk supply endangered by a federal program is therefore left to the states themselves. Inquiries addressed to the health officers or other appropriate officials of Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas in 1959 revealed that no tests had been made and that it simply was not known whether the milk was contaminated with pesticides or not.

Meanwhile, after rather than before the control program was launched, some research into the peculiar nature of heptachlor was done. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that someone looked up the research already published, since the basic fact that brought about belated action by the federal government had been discovered several years before, and should have influenced the initial handling of the program. This is the fact that heptachlor, after a short period in the tissues of animals or plants or in the soil, assumes a considerably more toxic form known as heptachlor epoxide. The epoxide is popularly described as ‘an oxidation product’ produced by weathering. The fact that this transformation could occur had been known since 1952, when the Food and Drug Administration discovered that female rats, fed 30 parts per million of heptachlor, had stored 165 parts per million of the more poisonous epoxide only 2 weeks later.

These facts were allowed to come out of the obscurity of biological literature in 1959, when the Food and Drug Administration took action which had the effect of banning any residues of heptachlor or its epoxide on food. This ruling put at least a temporary damper on the program; although the Agriculture Department continued to press for its annual appropriations for fire ant control, local agricultural agents became increasingly reluctant to advise farmers to use

chemicals which would probably result in their crops being legally unmarketable.

In short, the Department of Agriculture embarked on its program without even elementary investigation of what was already known about the chemical to be used—or if it investigated, it ignored the findings. It must also have failed to do preliminary research to discover the minimum amount of the chemical that would accomplish its purpose. After three years of heavy dosages, it abruptly reduced the rate of application of heptachlor from 2 pounds to 1¼ pounds per acre in 1959; later on to ½ pound per acre, applied in two treatments of ¼ pound each, 3 to 6 months apart. An official of the Department explained that ‘an aggressive methods improvement program’ showed the lower rate to be effective. Had this information been acquired before the program was launched, a vast amount of damage could have been avoided and the taxpayers could have been saved a great deal of money.

In 1959, perhaps in an attempt to offset the growing dissatisfaction with the program, the Agriculture Department offered the chemicals free to Texas landowners who would sign a release absolving federal, state, and local governments of responsibility for damage. In the same year the State of Alabama, alarmed and angry at the damage done by the chemicals, refused to appropriate any further funds for the project. One of its officials characterized the whole program as ‘ill advised, hastily conceived, poorly planned, and a glaring example of riding roughshod over the responsibilities of other public and private agencies’. Despite the lack of state funds, federal money continued to trickle into Alabama, and in 1961 the legislature was again persuaded to make a small appropriation. Meanwhile, farmers in Louisiana showed growing reluctance to sign up for the project as it became evident that use of chemicals against the fire ant was causing an upsurge of insects destructive to sugarcane. Moreover, the program was obviously accomplishing nothing. Its dismal state was tersely summarized in the spring of 1962 by the director of entomology research at Louisiana State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr. L. D. Newsom: ‘The imported fire ant “eradication” program which has been conducted by state and federal agencies is thus far a failure. There are more infested acres in Louisiana now than when the program began.’

A swing to more sane and conservative methods seems to have begun. Florida, reporting that ‘there are more fire ants in Florida now than there were when the program started,’ announced it was abandoning any idea of a broad eradication program and would instead concentrate on local control.

Effective and inexpensive methods of local control have been known for years. The mound-building habit of the fire ant makes the chemical treatment of individual mounds a simple matter. Cost of such treatment is about one dollar per acre. For situations where mounds are numerous and mechanized methods are desirable, a cultivator which first levels and then applies chemical directly to the mounds has been developed by Mississippi’s Agricultural Experiment Station. The method gives 90 to 95 per cent control of the ants. Its cost is only $0.23 per acre. The Agriculture Department’s mass control program, on the other hand, cost about $3.50 per acre—the most expensive, the most damaging, and the least effective program of all.


11. Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias


THE CONTAMINATION of our world is not alone a matter of mass spraying. Indeed, for most of us this is of less importance than the innumerable small-scale exposures to which we are subjected day by day, year after year. Like the constant dripping of water that in turn wears away the hardest stone, this birth-to-death contact with dangerous chemicals may in the end prove disastrous. Each of these recurrent exposures, no matter how slight, contributes to the progressive buildup of chemicals in our bodies and so to cumulative poisoning. Probably no person is immune to contact with this spreading contamination unless he lives in the most isolated situation imaginable. Lulled by the soft sell and the hidden persuader, the average citizen is seldom aware of the deadly materials with which he is surrounding himself: indeed, he may not realize he is using them at all.

So thoroughly has the age of poisons become established that anyone may walk into a store and, without questions being asked, buy substances of far greater death-dealing power than the medicinal drug for which he may be required to sign a ‘poison book’ in the pharmacy next door. A few minutes’ research in any supermarket is enough to alarm the most stouthearted customer—provided, that is, he has even a rudimentary knowledge of the chemicals presented for his choice.

If a huge skull and crossbones were suspended above the insecticide department the customer might at least enter it with the respect normally accorded death-dealing materials. But instead the display is homey and cheerful, and, with the pickles and olives across the aisle and the bath and laundry soaps adjoining, the rows upon rows of insecticides are displayed. Within easy reach of a child’s exploring hand are chemicals in glass containers. If dropped to the floor by a child or careless adult everyone nearby could be splashed with the same chemical that has sent spraymen using it into convulsions. These hazards of course follow the purchaser right into his home. A can of a mothproofing material containing , for example, carries in very fine print the warning that its contents are under pressure and that it may burst if exposed to heat or open flame. A common insecticide for household use, including assorted uses in the kitchen, is chlordane. Yet the Food and Drug Administration’s chief pharmacologist has declared the hazard of living in a house sprayed with chlordane to be ‘very great’. Other household preparations contain the even more toxic dieldrin.

Use of poisons in the kitchen is made both attractive and easy. Kitchen shelf paper, white or tinted to match one’s color scheme, may be impregnated with insecticide, not merely on one but on both sides. Manufacturers offer us do-it-yourself booklets on how to kill bugs. With push-button ease, one may send a fog of dieldrin into the most inaccessible nooks

and crannies of cabinets, corners, and baseboards.

If we are troubled by mosquitoes, chiggers, or other insect pests on our persons we have a choice of innumerable lotions, creams, and sprays for application to clothing or skin. Although we are warned that some of these will dissolve varnish, paint, and synthetic fabrics, we are presumably to infer that the human skin is impervious to chemicals. To make certain that we shall at all times be prepared to repel insects, an exclusive New York store advertises a pocket-sized insecticide dispenser, suitable for the purse or for beach, golf, or fishing gear.

We can polish our floors with a wax guaranteed to kill any insect that walks over it. We can hang strips impregnated with the chemical lindane in our closets and garment bags or place them in our bureau drawers for a half year’s freedom from worry over moth damage. The advertisements contain no suggestion that lindane is dangerous. Neither do the ads for an electronic device that dispenses lindane fumes—we are told that it is safe and odorless. Yet the truth of the matter is that the American Medical Association considers lindane vaporizers so dangerous that it conducted an extended campaign against them in its Journal.

The Department of Agriculture, in a Home and Garden Bulletin, advises us to spray our clothing with oil solutions of DDT, dieldrin, chlordane, or any of several other moth killers. If excessive spraying results in a white deposit of insecticide on the fabric, this may be removed by brushing, the Department says, omitting to caution us to be careful where and how the brushing is done. All these matters attended to, we may round out our day with insecticides by going to sleep under a mothproof blanket impregnated with dieldrin.

Gardening is now firmly linked with the super poisons. Every hardware store, garden-supply shop, and supermarket has rows of insecticides for every conceivable horticultural situation. Those who fail to make wide use of this array of lethal sprays and dusts are by implication remiss, for almost every newspaper’s garden page and the majority of the gardening magazines take their use for granted.

So extensively are even the rapidly lethal organic phosphorus insecticides applied to lawns and ornamental plants that in 1960 the Florida State Board of Health found it necessary to forbid the commercial use of pesticides in residential areas by anyone who had not first obtained a permit and met certain requirements. A number of deaths from parathion had occurred in Florida before this regulation was adopted.

Little is done, however, to warn the gardener or homeowner that he is handling extremely dangerous materials. On the contrary, a constant stream of new gadgets make it easier to use poisons on lawn and garden—and increase the gardener’s contact with them. One may get a jar-type attachment for the garden hose, for example, by which such extremely dangerous chemicals as chlordane or dieldrin are applied as one waters the lawn. Such a device is not only a hazard to the person using the hose, it is also a public menace. The New York Times found it necessary to issue a warning on its garden page to the effect that unless special protective devices were installed poisons might get to the water supply by back siphonage. Considering the number of such devices that are in use, and the scarcity of warnings such as this, do we need to wonder why our public waters are contaminated?

As an example of what may happen to the gardener himself, we might look at the case of a physician—an enthusiastic sparetime gardener—who began using DDT and then malathion on his shrubs and lawn, making regular weekly applications. Sometimes he applied the chemicals with a hand spray, sometimes with an attachment to his hose. In doing so, his skin and clothing were often soaked with spray. After about a year of this sort of thing, he suddenly collapsed and was hospitalized. Examination of a biopsy specimen of fat showed an accumulation of 23 parts per million of DDT. There was extensive nerve damage, which his physicians regarded as permanent. As time went on he lost weight, suffered extreme fatigue, and experienced a peculiar muscular weakness, a characteristic effect of malathion. All of these persisting effects were severe enough to make it difficult for the physician to carry on his practice.

Besides the once innocuous garden hose, power mowers also have been fitted with devices for the dissemination of pesticides, attachments that will dispense a cloud of vapor as the homeowner goes about the task of mowing his lawn. So to the potentially dangerous fumes from gasoline are added the finely divided particles of whatever insecticide the probably unsuspecting suburbanite has chosen to distribute, raising the level of air pollution above his own grounds to something few cities could equal.

Yet little is said about the hazards of the fad of gardening by poisons, or of insecticides used in the home; warnings on labels are printed so inconspicuously in small type that few take the trouble to read or follow them. An industrial firm recently undertook to find out just how few. Its survey indicated that fewer than fifteen people out of a hundred of those using insecticide aerosols and sprays are even aware of the warnings on the containers.

The mores of suburbia now dictate that crabgrass must go at whatever cost. Sacks containing chemicals designed to rid the lawn of such despised vegetation have become almost a status symbol. These weed-killing chemicals are sold under brand names that never suggest their identity or nature. To learn that they contain chlordane or dieldrin one must read exceedingly fine print placed on the least conspicuous part of the sack. The descriptive literature that may be picked up in any hardware or garden-supply store seldom if ever reveals the true hazard involved in handling or applying the material. Instead, the typical illustration portrays a happy family scene, father and son smilingly preparing to apply the chemical to the lawn, small children tumbling over the grass with a dog.

.    .    .

The question of chemical residues on the food we eat is a hotly debated issue. The existence of such residues is either played down by the industry as unimportant or is flatly denied. Simultaneously, there is a strong tendency to brand as fanatics or cultists all who are so perverse as to demand that their food be free of insect poisons. In all this cloud of controversy, what are the actual facts?

It has been medically established that, as common sense would tell us, persons who lived and died before the dawn of the DDT era (about 1942) contained no trace of DDT or any similar material in their tissues. As mentioned in Chapter 3, samples of body fat collected from the general population between 1954 and 1956 averaged from 5.3 to 7.4 parts per million of DDT. There is some evidence that the average level has risen since then to a consistently higher figure, and individuals with occupational or other special exposures to insecticides of course store even more.

Among the general population with no known gross exposures to insecticides it may be assumed that much of the DDT stored in fat deposits has entered the body in food. To test this assumption, a scientific team from the United States Public Health Service sampled restaurant and institutional meals. Every meal sampled contained DDT. From this the investigators concluded reasonably enough, that ‘few if any foods can be relied upon to be entirely free of DDT.’

The quantities in such meals may be enormous. In a separate Public Health Service study, analysis of prison meals disclosed such items as stewed dried fruit containing 69.6 parts per million and bread containing 100.9 parts per million of DDT!

In the diet of the average home, meats and any products derived from animal fats contain the heaviest residues of chlorinated hydrocarbons. This is because these chemicals are soluble in fat. Residues on fruits and vegetables tend to be somewhat less. These are little affected by washing—the only remedy is to remove and discard all outside leaves of such vegetables as lettuce or cabbage, to peel fruit and to use no skins or outer covering whatever. Cooking does not destroy residues.

Milk is one of the few foods in which no pesticide residues are permitted by Food and Drug Administration regulations. In actual fact, however, residues turn up whenever a check is made. They are heaviest in butter and other manufactured dairy products. A check of 461 samples of such products in 1960 showed that a third contained residues, a situation which the Food and Drug Administration characterized as ‘far from encouraging’.

To find a diet free from DDT and related chemicals, it seems one must go to a remote and primitive land, still lacking the amenities of civilization. Such a land appears to exist, at least marginally, on the far Arctic shores of Alaska— although even there one may see the approaching shadow. When scientists investigated the native diet of the Eskimos in this region it was found to be free from insecticides. The fresh and dried fish; the fat, oil, or meat from beaver, beluga, caribou, moose, oogruk, polar bear, and walrus; cranberries, salmonberries and wild rhubarb all had so far escaped contamination. There was only one exception—two white owls from Point Hope carried small amounts of DDT, perhaps

acquired in the course of some migratory journey.

When some of the Eskimos themselves were checked by analysis of fat samples, small residues of DDT were found (0 to 1.9 parts per million). The reason for this was clear. The fat samples were taken from people who had left their native villages to enter the United States Public Health Service Hospital in Anchorage for surgery. There the ways of civilization prevailed, and the meals in this hospital were found to contain as much DDT as those in the most populous city. For their brief stay in civilization the Eskimos were rewarded with a taint of poison.

The fact that every meal we eat carries its load of chlorinated hydrocarbons is the inevitable consequence of the almost universal spraying or dusting of agricultural crops with these poisons. If the farmer scrupulously follows the instructions on the labels, his use of agricultural chemicals will produce no residues larger than are permitted by the Food and Drug Administration. Leaving aside for the moment the question whether these legal residues are as ‘safe’ as they are represented to be, there remains the well-known fact that farmers very frequently exceed the prescribed dosages, use the chemical too close to the time of harvest, use several insecticides where one would do, and in other ways display the common human failure to read the fine print.

Even the chemical industry recognizes the frequent misuse of insecticides and the need for education of farmers. One of its leading trade journals recently declared that ‘many users do not seem to understand that they may exceed insecticide tolerances if they use higher dosages than recommended. And haphazard use of insecticides on many crops may be based on farmers’ whims.’

The files of the Food and Drug Administration contain records of a disturbing number of such violations. A few examples will serve to illustrate the disregard of directions: a lettuce farmer who applied not one but eight different insecticides to his crop within a short time of harvest, a shipper who had used the deadly parathion on celery in an amount five times the recommended maximum, growers using endrin—most toxic of all the chlorinated hydrocarbons—on lettuce although no residue was allowable, spinach sprayed with DDT a week before harvest.

There are also cases of chance or accidental contamination. Large lots of green coffee in burlap bags have become contaminated while being transported by vessels also carrying a cargo of insecticides. Packaged foods in warehouses are subjected to repeated aerosol treatments with DDT, lindane, and other insecticides, which may penetrate the packaging materials and occur in measurable quantities on the contained foods. The longer the food remains in storage, the greater the danger of contamination.

To the question ‘But doesn’t the government protect us from such things?’ the answer is, ‘Only to a limited extent.’ The activities of the Food and Drug Administration in the field of consumer protection against pesticides are severely limited by two facts. The first is that it has jurisdiction only over foods shipped in interstate commerce; foods grown and marketed within a state are entirely outside its sphere of authority, no matter what the violation. The second and critically limiting fact is the small number of inspectors on its staff—fewer than 600 men for all its varied work. According to a Food and Drug official, only an infinitesimal part of the crop products moving in interstate commerce— far less than 1 per cent—can be checked with existing facilities, and this is not enough to have statistical significance. As for food produced and sold within a state, the situation is even worse, for most states have woefully inadequate laws in this field.

The system by which the Food and Drug Administration establishes maximum permissible limits of contamination, called ‘tolerances’, has obvious defects. Under the conditions prevailing it provides mere paper security and promotes a completely unjustified impression that safe limits have been established and are being adhered to. As to the safety of allowing a sprinkling of poisons on our food—a little on this, a little on that—many people contend, with highly persuasive reasons, that no poison is safe or desirable on food. In setting a tolerance level the Food and Drug Administration reviews tests of the poison on laboratory animals and then establishes a maximum level of contamination that is much less than required to produce symptoms in the test animal. This system, which is supposed to ensure safety, ignores a number of important facts. A laboratory animal, living under controlled and highly artificial conditions, consuming a given amount of a specific chemical, is very different from a human being whose exposures to pesticides are not only multiple but for the most part unknown, unmeasurable, and uncontrollable. Even if 7 parts per million of DDT on the lettuce in his luncheon salad were ‘safe’, the meal includes other foods, each with allowable residues, and the pesticides on his food are, as we have seen, only a part, and possibly a small part, of his total exposure. This piling up of chemicals from many different sources creates a total exposure that cannot be measured. It is meaningless, therefore, to talk about the ‘safety’ of any specific amount of residue.

And there are other defects. Tolerances have sometimes been established against the better judgment of Food and Drug Administration scientists, as in the case cited on page 175 ff., or they have been established on the basis of inadequate knowledge of the chemical concerned. Better information has led to later reduction or withdrawal of the tolerance, but only after the public has been exposed to admittedly dangerous levels of the chemical for months or years. This happened when heptachlor was given a tolerance that later had to be revoked. For some chemicals no practical field method of analysis exists before a chemical is registered for use. Inspectors are therefore frustrated in their search for residues. This difficulty greatly hampered the work on the ‘cranberry chemical’, aminotriazole. Analytical methods are lacking, too, for certain fungicides in common use for the treatment of seeds—seeds which if unused at the end of the planting season, may very well find their way into human food.

In effect, then, to establish tolerances is to authorize contamination of public food supplies with poisonous chemicals in order that the farmer and the processor may enjoy the benefit of cheaper production—then to penalize the consumer by taxing him to maintain a policing agency to make certain that he shall not get a lethal dose. But to do the policing job properly would cost money beyond any legislator’s courage to appropriate, given the present volume and toxicity of agricultural chemicals. So in the end the luckless consumer pays his taxes but gets his poisons regardless.

What is the solution? The first necessity is the elimination of tolerances on the chlorinated hydrocarbons, the organic phosphorus group, and other highly toxic chemicals. It will immediately be objected that this will place an intolerable burden on the farmer. But if, as is now the presumable goal, it is possible to use chemicals in such a way that they leave a residue of only 7 parts per million (the tolerance for DDT), or of 1 part per million (the tolerance for parathion), or even of  only 0.1 part per million as is required for dieldrin on a great variety of fruits and vegetables, then why is it not possible, with only a little more care, to prevent the occurrence of any residues at all? This, in fact, is what is required for some chemicals such as heptachlor, endrin, and dieldrin on certain crops. If it is considered practical in these instances, why not for all?

But this is not a complete or final solution, for a zero tolerance on paper is of little value. At present, as we have seen, more than 99 per cent of the interstate food shipments slip by without inspection. A vigilant and aggressive Food and Drug Administration, with a greatly increased force of inspectors, is another urgent need.

This system, however—deliberately poisoning our food, then policing the result—is too reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s White Knight who thought of ‘a plan to dye one’s whiskers green, and always use so large a fan that they could not be seen.’ The ultimate answer is to use less toxic chemicals so that the public hazard from their misuse is greatly reduced. Such chemicals already exist: the pyrethrins, rotenone, ryania, and others derived from plant substances. Synthetic substitutes for the pyrethrins have recently been developed, and some of the producing countries stand ready to increase the output of the natural product as the market may require. Public education as to the nature of the chemicals offered for sale is sadly needed. The average purchaser is completely bewildered by the array of available insecticides, fungicides, and weed killers, and has no way of knowing which are the deadly ones, which reasonably safe.

In addition to making this change to less dangerous agricultural pesticides, we should diligently explore the possibilities of nonchemical methods. Agricultural use of insect diseases, caused by a bacterium highly specific for certain types of insects, is already being tried in California, and more extended tests of this method are under way. A great many other possibilities exist for effective insect control by methods that will leave no residues on foods (see Chapter 17). Until a large-scale conversion to these methods has been made, we shall have little relief from a situation that, by any commonsense standards, is intolerable. As matters stand now, we are in little better position than the guests of the Borgias.



12. The Human Price


AS THE TIDE of chemicals born of the Industrial Age has arisen to engulf our environment, a drastic change has come about in the nature of the most serious public health problems. Only yesterday mankind lived in fear of the scourges of smallpox, cholera, and plague that once swept nations before them. Now our major concern is no longer with the disease organisms that once were omnipresent; sanitation, better living conditions, and new drugs have given us a high degree of control over infectious disease. Today we are concerned with a different kind of hazard that lurks in our environment—a hazard we ourselves have introduced into our world as our modern way of life has evolved.

The new environmental health problems are multiple—created by radiation in all its forms, born of the never-ending stream of chemicals of which pesticides are a part, chemicals now pervading the world in which we live, acting upon us directly and indirectly, separately and collectively. Their presence casts a shadow that is no less ominous because it is formless and obscure, no less frightening because it is simply impossible to predict the effects of lifetime exposure to chemical and physical agents that are not part of the biological experience of man.

‘We all live under the haunting fear that something may corrupt the environment to the point where man joins the dinosaurs as an obsolete form of life,’ says Dr. David Price of the United States Public Health Service. ‘And what makes these thoughts all the more disturbing is the knowledge that our fate could perhaps be sealed twenty or more years before the development of symptoms.’

Where do pesticides fit into the picture of environmental disease? We have seen that they now contaminate soil, water, and food, that they have the power to make our streams fishless and our gardens and woodlands silent and birdless. Man, however much he may like to pretend the contrary, is part of nature. Can he escape a pollution that is now so thoroughly distributed throughout our world?

We know that even single exposures to these chemicals, if the amount is large enough, can precipitate acute poisoning. But this is not the major problem. The sudden illness or death of farmers, spraymen, pilots, and others exposed to appreciable quantities of pesticides are tragic and should not occur. For the population as a whole, we must be more concerned with the delayed effects of absorbing small amounts of the pesticides that invisibly contaminate our world.

Responsible public health officials have pointed out that the biological effects of chemicals are cumulative over long periods of time, and that the hazard to the individual may depend on the sum of the exposures received throughout his lifetime. For these very reasons the danger is easily ignored. It is human nature to shrug off what may seem to us a vague threat of future disaster. ‘Men are naturally most impressed by diseases which have obvious manifestations,’ says a wise

physician, Dr. René Dubos, ‘yet some of their worst enemies creep on them unobtrusively.’

For each of us, as for the robin in Michigan or the salmon in the Miramichi, this is a problem of ecology, of interrelationships, of interdependence. We poison the caddis flies in a stream and the salmon runs dwindle and die. We poison the gnats in a lake and the poison travels from link to link of the food chain and soon the birds of the lake margins become its victims. We spray our elms and the following springs are silent of robin song, not because we sprayed the robins directly but because the poison traveled, step by step, through the now familiar elm leaf-earthworm-robin cycle. These are matters of record, observable, part of the visible world around us. They reflect the web of life—or death—that scientists know as ecology.

But there is also an ecology of the world within our bodies. In this unseen world minute causes produce mighty effects; the effect, moreover, is often seemingly unrelated to the cause, appearing in a part of the body remote from the area where the original injury was sustained. ‘A change at one point, in one molecule even, may reverberate throughout the entire system to initiate changes in seemingly unrelated organs and tissues,’ says a recent summary of the present status of medical research. When one is concerned with the mysterious and wonderful functioning of the human body, cause and effect are seldom simple and easily demonstrated relationships. They may be widely separated both in space and time. To discover the agent of disease and death depends on a patient piecing together of many seemingly distinct and unrelated facts developed through a vast amount of research in widely separated fields.  

We are accustomed to look for the gross and immediate effect and to ignore all else. Unless this appears promptly and in such obvious form that it cannot be ignored, we deny the existence of hazard. Even research men suffer from the handicap of inadequate methods of detecting the beginnings of injury. The lack of sufficiently delicate methods to detect injury before symptoms appear is one of the great unsolved problems in medicine.

‘But,’ someone will object, ‘I have used dieldrin sprays on the lawn many times but I have never had convulsions like the World Health Organization spraymen—so it hasn’t harmed me.’ It is not that simple. Despite the absence of sudden and dramatic symptoms, one who handles such materials is unquestionably storing up toxic materials in his body. Storage of the chlorinated hydrocarbons, as we have seen, is cumulative, beginning with the smallest intake. The toxic materials become lodged in all the fatty tissues of the body. When these reserves of fat are drawn upon, the poison may then strike quickly. A New Zealand medical journal recently provided an example. A man under treatment for obesity suddenly developed symptoms of poisoning. On examination his fat was found to contain stored dieldrin, which had been metabolised as he lost weight. The same thing could happen with loss of weight in illness.

The results of storage, on the other hand, could be even less obvious. Several years ago the Journal of the American Medical Association warned strongly of the hazards of insecticide storage in adipose tissue, pointing out that drugs or chemicals that are cumulative require greater caution than those having no tendency to be stored in the tissues. The adipose tissue, we are warned, is not merely a place for the deposition of fat (which makes up about 18 per cent of the body weight), but has many important functions with which the stored poisons may interfere. Furthermore, fats are very widely distributed in the organs and tissues of the whole body, even being constituents of cell membranes. It is important to remember, therefore, that the fat-soluble insecticides become stored in individual cells, where they are in position to interfere with the most vital and necessary functions of oxidation and energy production. This important aspect of the problem will be taken up in the next chapter.

One of the most significant facts about the chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides is their effect on the liver. Of all organs in the body the liver is most extraordinary. In its versatility and in the indispensable nature of its functions it has no equal. It presides over so many vital activities that even the slightest damage to it is fraught with serious consequences. Not only does it provide bile for the digestion of fats, but because of its location and the special circulatory pathways that converge upon it, the liver receives blood directly from the digestive tract and is deeply involved in the metabolism of all the principal foodstuffs. It stores sugar in the form of glycogen and releases it as glucose in carefully measured quantities to keep the blood sugar at a normal level. It builds body proteins, including some essential elements of blood plasma concerned with blood-clotting. It maintains cholesterol at its proper level in the blood plasma, and inactivates the male and female hormones when they reach excessive levels. It is a storehouse of many vitamins, some of which in turn contribute to its own proper functioning.

Without a normally functioning liver the body would be disarmed—defenceless against the great variety of poisons that continually invade it. Some of these are normal by-products of metabolism, which the liver swiftly and efficiently makes harmless by withdrawing their nitrogen. But poisons that have no normal place in the body may also be detoxified. The ‘harmless’ insecticides malathion and methoxychlor are less poisonous than their relatives only because a liver enzyme deals with them, altering their molecules in such a way that their capacity for harm is lessened. In similar ways the liver deals with the majority of the toxic materials to which we are exposed.

Our line of defense against invading poisons or poisons from within is now weakened and crumbling. A liver damaged by pesticides is not only incapable of protecting us from poisons, the whole wide range of its activities may be interfered with. Not only are the consequences far-reaching, but because of their variety and the fact that they may not immediately appear they may not be attributed to their true cause.

In connection with the nearly universal use of insecticides that are liver poisons, it is interesting to note the sharp rise in hepatitis that began during the 1950s and is continuing a fluctuating climb. Cirrhosis also is said to be increasing. While it is admittedly difficult, in dealing with human beings rather than laboratory animals, to ‘prove’ that cause A produces effect B, plain common sense suggests that the relation between a soaring rate of liver disease and the prevalence of liver poisons in the environment is no coincidence. Whether or not the chlorinated hydrocarbons are the primary cause, it seems hardly sensible under the circumstances to expose ourselves to poisons that have a proven ability to damage the liver and so presumably to make it less resistant to disease.

Both major types of insecticides, the chlorinated hydrocarbons and the organic phosphates, directly affect the nervous system, although in somewhat different ways. This has been made clear by an infinite number of experiments on animals and by observations on human subjects as well. As for DDT, the first of the new organic insecticides to be widely used, its action is primarily on the central nervous system of man; the cerebellum and the higher motor cortex are thought to be the areas chiefly affected. Abnormal sensations as of prickling, burning, or itching, as well as tremors or even convulsions may follow exposure to appreciable amounts, according to a standard textbook of toxicology.

Our first knowledge of the symptoms of acute poisoning by DDT was furnished by several British investigators, who deliberately exposed themselves in order to learn the consequences. Two scientists at the British Royal Navy Physiological Laboratory invited absorption of DDT through the skin by direct contact with walls covered with a watersoluble paint containing 2 per cent DDT, overlaid with a thin film of oil. The direct effect on the nervous system is apparent in their eloquent description of their symptoms: ‘The tiredness, heaviness, and aching of limbs were very real things, and the mental state was also most distressing…[there was] extreme irritability…great distaste for work of any sort…a feeling of mental incompetence in tackling the simplest mental task. The joint pains were quite violent at times.’

Another British experimenter who applied DDT in acetone solution to his skin reported heaviness and aching of limbs, muscular weakness, and ‘spasms of extreme nervous tension’. He took a holiday and improved, but on return to work his condition deteriorated. He then spent three weeks in bed, made miserable by constant aching in limbs, insomnia, nervous tension, and feelings of acute anxiety. On occasion tremors shook his whole body—tremors of the sort now made all too familiar by the sight of birds poisoned by DDT. The experimenter lost 10 weeks from his work, and at the end of a year, when his case was reported in a British medical journal, recovery was not complete.

(Despite this evidence, several American investigators conducting an experiment with DDT on volunteer subjects dismissed the complaint of headache and ‘pain in every bone’ as ‘obviously of psychoneurotic origin’.)

There are now many cases on record in which both the symptoms and the whole course of the illness point to insecticides as the cause. Typically, such a victim has had a known exposure to one of the insecticides, his symptoms have subsided under treatment which included the exclusion of all insecticides from his environment, and most significantly have returned with each renewed contact with the offending chemicals. This sort of evidence—and no more—forms the basis of a vast amount of medical therapy in many other disorders. There is no reason why it should not

serve as a warning that it is no longer sensible to take the ‘calculated risk’ of saturating our environment with


Why does not everyone handling and using insecticides develop the same symptoms? Here the matter of individual sensitivity enters in. There is some evidence that women are more susceptible than men, the very young more than adults, those who lead sedentary, indoor lives more than those leading a rugged life of work or exercise in the open. Beyond these differences are others that are no less real because they are intangible. What makes one person allergic to dust or pollen, sensitive to a poison, or susceptible to an infection whereas another is not is a medical mystery for which there is at present no explanation. The problem nevertheless exists and it affects significant numbers of the population. Some physicians estimate that a third or more of their patients show signs of some form of sensitivity, and that the number is growing. And unfortunately, sensitivity may suddenly develop in a person previously insensitive. In fact, some medical men believe that intermittent exposures to chemicals may produce just such sensitivity. If this is true, it may explain why some studies on men subjected to continuous occupational exposure find little evidence of toxic effects. By their constant contact with the chemicals these men keep themselves desensitized—as an allergist keeps his patients desensitized by repeated small injections of the allergen.

The whole problem of pesticide poisoning is enormously complicated by the fact that a human being, unlike a laboratory animal living under rigidly controlled conditions, is never exposed to one chemical alone. Between the major groups of insecticides, and between them and other chemicals, there are interactions that have serious potentials. Whether released into soil or water or a man’s blood, these unrelated chemicals do not remain segregated; there are mysterious and unseen changes by which one alters the power of another for harm.

There is interaction even between the two major groups of insecticides usually thought to be completely distinct in their action. The power of the organic phosphates, those poisoners of the nerve-protective enzyme cholinesterase, may become greater if the body has first been exposed to a chlorinated hydrocarbon which injures the liver. This is because, when liver function is disturbed, the cholinesterase level drops below normal. The added depressive effect of the organic phosphate may then be enough to precipitate acute symptoms. And as we have seen, pairs of the organic phosphates themselves may interact in such a way as to increase their toxicity a hundredfold. Or the organic phosphates may interact with various drugs, or with synthetic materials, food additives—who can say what else of the infinite number of manmade substances that now pervade our world?

The effect of a chemical of supposedly innocuous nature can be drastically changed by the action of another; one of the best examples is a close relative of DDT called methoxychlor. (Actually, methoxychlor may not be as free from dangerous qualities as it is generally said to be, for recent work on experimental animals shows a direct action on the

uterus and a blocking effect on some of the powerful pituitary hormones—reminding us again that these are chemicals with enormous biologic effect. Other work shows that methoxychlor has a potential ability to damage the kidneys.) Because it is not stored to any great extent when given alone, we are told that methoxychlor is a safe chemical. But this is not necessarily true. If the liver has been damaged by another agent, methoxychlor is stored in the body at 100 times its normal rate, and will then imitate the effects of DDT with long-lasting effects on the nervous system. Yet the liver damage that brings this about might be so slight as to pass unnoticed. It might have been the result of any of a number of commonplace situations—using another insecticide, using a cleaning fluid containing carbon tetrachloride, or taking one of the so-called tranquilizing drugs, a number (but not all) of which are chlorinated hydrocarbons and possess power to damage the liver.

Damage to the nervous system is not confined to acute poisoning; there may also be delayed effects from exposure. Long-lasting damage to brain or nerves has been reported for methoxychlor and others. Dieldrin, besides its immediate consequences, can have long delayed effects ranging from ‘loss of memory, insomnia, and nightmares to mania’. Lindane, according to medical findings, is stored in significant amounts in the brain and functioning liver tissue and may induce ‘profound and long lasting effects on the central nervous system’. Yet this chemical, a form of benzene hexachloride, is much used in vaporizers, devices that pour a stream of volatilized insecticide vapor into homes, offices, restaurants.

The organic phosphates, usually considered only in relation to their more violent manifestations in acute poisoning, also have the power to produce lasting physical damage to nerve tissues and, according to recent findings, to induce mental disorders. Various cases of delayed paralysis have followed use of one or another of these insecticides. A bizarre happening in the United States during the prohibition era about 1930 was an omen of things to come. It was caused not by an insecticide but by a substance belonging chemically to the same group as the organic phosphate insecticides. During that period some medicinal substances were being pressed into service as substitutes for liquor, being exempt from the prohibition law. One of these was Jamaica ginger. But the United States Pharmacopeia product was expensive, and bootleggers conceived the idea of making a substitute Jamaica ginger. They succeeded so well that their spurious product responded to the appropriate chemical tests and deceived the government chemists. To give their false ginger the necessary tang they had introduced a chemical known as triorthocresyl phosphate. This chemical, like parathion and its relatives, destroys the protective enzyme cholinesterase. As a consequence of drinking the bootleggers’ product some 15,000 people developed a permanently crippling type of paralysis of the leg muscles, a condition now called ‘ginger paralysis’. The paralysis was accompanied by destruction of the nerve sheaths and by degeneration of the cells of the anterior horns of the spinal cord.

About two decades later various other organic phosphates came into use as insecticides, as we have seen, and soon cases reminiscent of the ginger paralysis episode began to occur. One was a greenhouse worker in Germany who became paralyzed several months after experiencing mild symptoms of poisoning on a few occasions after using parathion. Then a group of three chemical plant workers developed acute poisoning from exposure to other insecticides of this group. They recovered under treatment, but ten days later two of them developed muscular weakness in the legs. This persisted for 10 months in one; the other, a young woman chemist, was more severely affected, with paralysis in both legs and some involvement of the hands and arms. Two years later when her case was reported in a medical journal she was still unable to walk.

The insecticide responsible for these cases has been withdrawn from the market, but some of those now in use may be capable of like harm. Malathion (beloved of gardeners) has induced severe muscular weakness in experiments on chickens. This was attended (as in ginger paralysis) by destruction of the sheaths of the sciatic and spinal nerves.

All these consequences of organic phosphate poisoning, if survived, may be a prelude to worse. In view of the severe damage they inflict upon the nervous system, it was perhaps inevitable that these insecticides would eventually be linked with mental disease. That link has recently been supplied by investigators at the University of Melbourne and Prince Henry’s Hospital in Melbourne, who reported on 16 cases of mental disease. All had a history of prolonged exposure to organic phosphorus insecticides. Three were scientists checking the efficacy of sprays; 8 worked in greenhouses; 5 were farm workers. Their symptoms ranged from impairment of memory to schizophrenic and depressive reactions. All had normal medical histories before the chemicals they were using boomeranged and struck them down.

Echoes of this sort of thing are to be found, as we have seen, widely scattered throughout medical literature, sometimes involving the chlorinated hydrocarbons, sometimes the organic phosphates. Confusion, delusions, loss of memory, mania—a heavy price to pay for the temporary destruction of a few insects, but a price that will continue to be exacted as long as we insist upon using chemicals that strike directly at the nervous system.


13. Through a Narrow Window


THE BIOLOGIST George Wald once compared his work on an exceedingly specialized subject, the visual pigments of the eye, to ‘a very narrow window through which at a distance one can see only a crack of light. As one comes closer the view grows wider and wider, until finally through this same narrow window one is looking at the universe.’

So it is that only when we bring our focus to bear, first on the individual cells of the body, then on the minute structures within the cells, and finally on the ultimate reactions of molecules within these structures—only when we do this can we comprehend the most serious and far-reaching effects of the haphazard introduction of foreign chemicals into our internal environment. Medical research has only rather recently turned to the functioning of the individual cell in producing the energy that is the indispensable quality of life. The extraordinary energy-producing mechanism of the body is basic not only to health but to life; it transcends in importance even the most vital organs, for without the smooth and effective functioning of energy-yielding oxidation none of the body’s functions can be performed. Yet the nature of many of the chemicals used against insects, rodents, and weeds is such that they may strike directly at this system, disrupting its beautifully functioning mechanism.

The research that led to our present understanding of cellular oxidation is one of the most impressive accomplishments in all biology and biochemistry. The roster of contributors to this work includes many Nobel Prize winners. Step by step it has been going on for a quarter of a century, drawing on even earlier work for some of its foundation stones. Even yet it is not complete in all details. And only within the past decade have all the varied pieces of research come to form a whole so that biological oxidation could become part of the common knowledge of biologists. Even more important is the fact that medical men who received their basic training before 1950 have had little opportunity to realize the critical importance of the process and the hazards of disrupting it.

The ultimate work of energy production is accomplished not in any specialized organ but in every cell of the body. A living cell, like a flame, burns fuel to produce the energy on which life depends. The analogy is more poetic than precise, for the cell accomplishes its ‘burning’ with only the moderate heat of the body’s normal temperature. Yet all these billions of gently burning little fires spark the energy of life. Should they cease to burn, ‘no heart could beat, no plant could grow upward defying gravity, no amoeba could swim, no sensation could speed along a nerve, no thought could flash in the human brain,’ said the chemist Eugene Rabinowitch.

The transformation of matter into energy in the cell is an ever-flowing process, one of nature’s cycles of renewal, like a wheel endlessly turning. Grain by grain, molecule by molecule, carbohydrate fuel in the form of glucose is fed into this wheel; in its cyclic passage the fuel molecule undergoes fragmentation and a series of minute chemical changes. The changes are made in orderly fashion, step by step, each step directed and controlled by an enzyme of so specialized a function that it does this one thing and nothing else. At each step energy is produced, waste products (carbon dioxide and water) are given off, and the altered molecule of fuel is passed on to the next stage. When the turning wheel comes full cycle the fuel molecule has been stripped down to a form in which it is ready to combine with a new molecule coming in and to start the cycle anew.

This process by which the cell functions as a chemical factory is one of the wonders of the living world. The fact that all the functioning parts are of infinitesimal size adds to the miracle. With few exceptions cells themselves are minute, seen only with the aid of a microscope. Yet the greater part of the work of oxidation is performed in a theater far smaller, in tiny granules within the cell called mitochondria. Although known for more than 60 years, these were formerly dismissed as cellular elements of unknown and probably unimportant function. Only in the 1950s did their study become an exciting and fruitful field of research; suddenly they began to engage so much attention that 1000 papers on this subject alone appeared within a five-year period.

Again one stands in awe at the marvelous ingenuity and patience by which the mystery of the mitochondria has been solved. Imagine a particle so small that you can barely see it even though a microscope has enlarged it for you 300 times. Then imagine the skill required to isolate this particle, to take it apart and analyze its components and determine their highly complex functioning. Yet this has been done with the aid of the electron microscope and the techniques of the biochemist.

It is now known that the mitochondria are tiny packets of enzymes, a varied assortment including all the enzymes necessary for the oxidative cycle, arranged in precise and orderly array on walls and partitions. The mitochondria are the ‘powerhouses’ in which most of the energy-producing reactions occur. After the first, preliminary steps of oxidation have been performed in the cytoplasm the fuel molecule is taken into the mitochondria. It is here that oxidation is completed; it is here that enormous amounts of energy are released.

The endlessly turning wheels of oxidation within the mitochondria would turn to little purpose if it were not for this all-important result. The energy produced at each stage of the oxidative cycle is in a form familiarly spoken of by the biochemists as ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule containing three phosphate groups. The role of ATP in furnishing energy comes from the fact that it can transfer one of its phosphate groups to other substances, along with the energy of its bonds of electrons shuttling back and forth at high speed. Thus, in a muscle cell, energy to contract is gained when a terminal phosphate group is transferred to the contracting muscle. So another cycle takes place—a cycle within a cycle: a molecule of ATP gives up one of its phosphate groups and retains only two, becoming a diphosphate molecule, ADP. But as the wheel turns further another phosphate group is coupled on and the potent ATP is restored. The analogy of the storage battery has been used: ATP represents the charged, ADP the discharged battery.

ATP is the universal currency of energy—found in all organisms from microbes to man. It furnishes mechanical energy to muscle cells; electrical energy to nerve cells. The sperm cell, the fertilized egg ready for the enormous burst of activity that will transform it into a frog or a bird or a human infant, the cell that must create a hormone, all are supplied with ATP. Some of the energy of ATP is used in the mitochondrion but most of it is immediately dispatched into the cell to provide power for other activities. The location of the mitochondria within certain cells is eloquent of their function, since they are placed so that energy can be delivered precisely where it is needed. In muscle cells they cluster around contracting fibers; in nerve cells they are found at the junction with another cell, supplying energy for the transfer of

impulses; in sperm cells they are concentrated at the point where the propellant tail is joined to the head.

The charging of the battery, in which ADP and a free phosphate group are combined to restore ATP, is coupled to the oxidative process; the close linking is known as coupled phosphorylation. If the combination becomes uncoupled, the means is lost for providing usable energy. Respiration continues but no energy is produced. The cell has become like a racing engine, generating heat but yielding no power. Then the muscle cannot contract, nor can the impulse race along the nerve pathways. Then the sperm cannot move to its destination; the fertilized egg cannot carry to completion its complex divisions and elaborations. The consequences of uncoupling could indeed be disastrous for any organism from embryo to adult: in time it could lead to the death of the tissue or even of the organism.

How can uncoupling be brought about? Radiation is an uncoupler, and the death of cells exposed to radiation is thought by some to be brought about in this way. Unfortunately, a good many chemicals also have the power to separate oxidation from energy production, and the insecticides and weed killers are well represented on the list. The phenols, as we have seen, have a strong effect on metabolism, causing a potentially fatal rise in temperature; this is brought about by the ‘racing engine’ effect of uncoupling. The dinitrophenols and pentachlorophenols are examples of this group that have widespread use as herbicides. Another uncoupler among the herbicides is 2,4-D. Of the chlorinated hydrocarbons, DDT is a proven uncoupler and further study will probably reveal others among this group.

But uncoupling is not the only way to extinguish the little fires in some or all of the body’s billions of cells. We have seen that each step in oxidation is directed and expedited by a specific enzyme. When any of these enzymes—even a single one of them—is destroyed or weakened, the cycle of oxidation within the cell comes to a halt. It makes no difference which enzyme is affected. Oxidation progresses in a cycle like a turning wheel. If we thrust a crowbar between the spokes of a wheel it makes no difference where we do it, the wheel stops turning. In the same way, if we destroy an enzyme that functions at any point in the cycle, oxidation ceases. There is then no further energy production, so the end effect is very similar to uncoupling.

The crowbar to wreck the wheels of oxidation can be supplied by any of a number of chemicals commonly used as pesticides. DDT, methoxychlor, malathion, phenothiazine, and various dinitro compounds are among the numerous pesticides that have been found to inhibit one or more of the enzymes concerned in the cycle of oxidation. They thus appear as agents potentially capable of blocking the whole process of energy production and depriving the cells of utilizable oxygen. This is an injury with most disastrous consequences, only a few of which can be mentioned here.

Merely by systematically withholding oxygen, experimenters have caused normal cells to turn into cancer cells, as we shall see in the following chapter. Some hint of other drastic consequences of depriving a cell of oxygen can be seen in

animal experiments on developing embryos. With insufficient oxygen the orderly processes by which the tissues unfold and the organs develop are disrupted; malformations and other abnormalities then occur. Presumably the human embryo deprived of oxygen may also develop congenital deformities.

There are signs that an increase in such disasters is being noticed, even though few look far enough to find all of the causes. In one of the more unpleasant portents of the times, the Office of Vital Statistics in 1961 initiated a national tabulation of malformations at birth, with the explanatory comment that the resulting statistics would provide needed facts on the incidence of congenital malformations and the circumstances under which they occur. Such studies will no doubt be directed largely toward measuring the effects of radiation, but it must not be overlooked that many chemicals are the partners of radiation, producing precisely the same effects. Some of the defects and malformations in tomorrow’s children, grimly anticipated by the Office of Vital Statistics, will almost certainly be caused by these chemicals that permeate our outer and inner worlds.

It may well be that some of the findings about diminished reproduction are also linked with interference with biological oxidation, and consequent depletion of the all-important storage batteries of ATP. The egg, even before fertilization, needs to be generously supplied with ATP, ready and waiting for the enormous effort, the vast expenditure of energy that will be required once the sperm has entered and fertilization has occurred. Whether the sperm cell will reach and penetrate the egg depends upon its own supply of ATP, generated in the mitochondria thickly clustered in the neck of the cell. Once fertilization is accomplished and cell division has begun, the supply of energy in the form of ATP will largely determine whether the development of the embryo will proceed to completion. Embryologists studying some of their most convenient subjects, the eggs of frogs and of sea urchins, have found that if the ATP content is reduced below a certain critical level the egg simply stops dividing and soon dies.

It is not an impossible step from the embryology laboratory to the apple tree where a robin’s nest holds its complement of blue-green eggs; but the eggs lie cold, the fires of life that flickered for a few days now extinguished. Or to the top of a tall Florida pine where a vast pile of twigs and sticks in ordered disorder holds three large white eggs, cold and lifeless. Why did the robins and the eaglets not hatch? Did the eggs of the birds, like those of the laboratory frogs, stop developing simply because they lacked enough of the common currency of energy—the ATP molecules—to complete their development? And was the lack of ATP brought about because in the body of the parent birds and in the eggs there were stored enough insecticides to stop the little turning wheels of oxidation on which the supply of energy depends?

It is no longer necessary to guess about the storage of insecticides in the eggs of birds, which obviously lend themselves to this kind of observation more readily than the mammalian ovum. Large residues of DDT and other hydrocarbons have been found whenever looked for in the eggs of birds subjected to these chemicals, either experimentally or in the wild. And the concentrations have been heavy. Pheasant eggs in a California experiment contained up to 349 parts per million of DDT. In Michigan, eggs taken from the oviducts of robins dead of DDT poisoning showed concentrations up to 200 parts per million. Other eggs were taken from nests left unattended as parent robins were stricken with poison; these too contained DDT. Chickens poisoned by aldrin used on a neighboring farm have passed on the chemical to their eggs; hens experimentally fed DDT laid eggs containing as much as 65 parts per million.

Knowing that DDT and other (perhaps all) chlorinated hydrocarbons stop the energy-producing cycle by inactivating a specific enzyme or uncoupling the energy-producing mechanism, it is hard to see how any egg so loaded with residues could complete the complex process of development: the infinite number of cell divisions, the elaboration of tissues and organs, the synthesis of vital substances that in the end produce a living creature. All this requires vast amounts of energy—the little packets of ATP which the turning of the metabolic wheel alone can produce.

There is no reason to suppose these disastrous events are confined to birds. ATP is the universal currency of energy, and the metabolic cycles that produce it turn to the same purpose in birds and bacteria, in men and mice. The fact of insecticide storage in the germ cells of any species should therefore disturb us, suggesting comparable effects in human beings.

And there are indications that these chemicals lodge in tissues concerned with the manufacture of germ cells as well as in the cells themselves. Accumulations of insecticides have been discovered in the sex organs of a variety of birds and mammals—in pheasants, mice, and guinea pigs under controlled conditions, in robins in an area sprayed for elm disease, and in deer roaming western forests sprayed for spruce budworm. In one of the robins the concentration of DDT in the testes was heavier than in any other part of the body. Pheasants also accumulated extraordinary amounts in the testes, up to 1500 parts per million.

Probably as an effect of such storage in the sex organs, atrophy of the testes has been observed in experimental mammals. Young rats exposed to methoxychlor had extraordinarily small testes. When young roosters were fed DDT, the testes made only 18 per cent of their normal growth; combs and wattles, dependent for their development upon the testicular hormone, were only a third the normal size.

The spermatozoa themselves may well be affected by loss of ATP. Experiments show that the motility of bull sperm is decreased by dinitrophenol, which interferes with the energy-coupling mechanism with inevitable loss of energy. The same effect would probably be found with other chemicals were the matter investigated. Some indication of the possible effect on human beings is seen in medical reports of oligospermia, or reduced production of spermatozoa, among aviation crop dusters applying DDT.

.    .    .

For mankind as a whole, a possession infinitely more valuable than individual life is our genetic heritage, our link with past and future. Shaped through long eons of evolution, our genes not only make us what we are, but hold in their minute beings the future—be it one of promise or threat. Yet genetic deterioration through man-made agents is the menace of our time, ‘the last and greatest danger to our civilization’.

Again the parallel between chemicals and radiation is exact and inescapable.

The living cell assaulted by radiation suffers a variety of injuries: its ability to divide normally may be destroyed, it may suffer changes in chromosome structure, or the genes, carriers of hereditary material, may undergo those sudden changes known as mutations, which cause them to produce new characteristics in succeeding generations. If especially susceptible the cell may be killed outright, or finally, after the passage of time measured in years, it may become malignant.

All these consequences of radiation have been duplicated in laboratory studies by a large group of chemicals known as radiomimetic or radiation-imitating. Many chemicals used as pesticides—herbicides as well as insecticides—belong to this group of substances that have the ability to damage the chromosomes, interfere with normal cell division, or cause mutations. These injuries to the genetic material are of a kind that may lead to disease in the individual exposed or they may make their effects felt in future generations.

Only a few decades ago, no one knew these effects of either radiation or chemicals. In those days the atom had not been split and few of the chemicals that were to duplicate radiation had as yet been conceived in the test tubes of chemists. Then in 1927, a professor of zoology in a Texas university, Dr. H. J. Muller, found that by exposing an organism to X-radiation, he could produce mutations in succeeding generations. With Muller’s discovery a vast new field of scientific and medical knowledge was opened up. Muller later received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his achievement, and in a world that soon gained unhappy familiarity with the gray rains of fallout, even the nonscientist now knows the potential results of radiation.

Although far less noticed, a companion discovery was made by Charlotte Auerbach and William Robson at the University of Edinburgh in the early 1940s. Working with mustard gas, they found that this chemical produces permanent chromosome abnormalities that cannot be distinguished from those induced by radiation. Tested on the fruit fly, the same organism Muller had used in his original work with X-rays, mustard gas also produced mutations. Thus the first chemical mutagen was discovered.

Mustard gas as a mutagen has now been joined by a long list of other chemicals known to alter genetic material in plants and animals. To understand how chemicals can alter the course of heredity, we must first watch the basic drama

of life as it is played on the stage of the living cell.

The cells composing the tissues and organs of the body must have the power to increase in number if the body is to grow and if the stream of life is to be kept flowing from generation to generation. This is accomplished by the process of mitosis, or nuclear division. In a cell that is about to divide, changes of the utmost importance occur, first within the nucleus, but eventually involving the entire cell. Within the nucleus, the chromosomes mysteriously move and divide, ranging themselves in age-old patterns that will serve to distribute the determiners of heredity, the genes, to the daughter cells. First they assume the form of elongated threads, on which the genes are aligned, like beads on a string. Then each chromosome divides lengthwise (the genes dividing also). When the cell divides into two, half of each goes to each of the daughter cells. In this way each new cell will contain a complete set of chromosomes, and all the genetic information encoded within them. In this way the integrity of the race and of the species is preserved; in this way like begets like.

A special kind of cell division occurs in the formation of the germ cells. Because the chromosome number for a given species is constant, the egg and the sperm, which are to unite to form a new individual, must carry to their union only half the species number. This is accomplished with extraordinary precision by a change in the behavior of the chromosomes that occurs at one of the divisions producing those cells. At this time the chromosomes do not split, but one whole chromosome of each pair goes into each daughter cell.

In this elemental drama all life is revealed as one. The events of the process of cell division are common to all earthly life; neither man nor amoeba, the giant sequoia nor the simple yeast cell can long exist without carrying on this process of cell division. Anything that disturbs mitosis is therefore a grave threat to the welfare of the organism affected and to its descendants.

‘The major features of cellular organization, including, for instance, mitosis, must be much older than 500 million years—more nearly 1000 million,’ wrote George Gaylord Simpson and his colleagues Pittendrigh and Tiffany in their broadly encompassing book entitled Life. ‘In this sense the world of life, while surely fragile and complex, is incredibly durable through time—more durable than mountains. This durability is wholly dependent on the almost incredible accuracy with which the inherited information is copied from generation to generation.’

But in all the thousand million years envisioned by these authors no threat has struck so directly and so forcefully at that ‘incredible accuracy’ as the mid-20th century threat of man-made radiation and man-made and man-disseminated chemicals. Sir Macfarlane Burnet, a distinguished Australian physician and a Nobel Prize winner, considers it ‘one of the most significant medical features’ of our time that, ‘as a by-product of more and more powerful therapeutic procedures and the production of chemical substances outside of biological experiences, the normal protective barriers that kept

mutagenic agents from the internal organs have been more and more frequently penetrated.’

The study of human chromosomes is in its infancy, and so it has only recently become possible to study the effect of environmental factors upon them. It was not until 1956 that new techniques made it possible to determine accurately the number of chromosomes in the human cell—46—and to observe them in such detail that the presence or absence of whole chromosomes or even parts of chromosomes could be detected. The whole concept of genetic damage by something in the environment is also relatively new, and is little understood except by the geneticists, whose advice is too seldom sought. The hazard from radiation in its various forms is now reasonably well understood—although still denied in surprising places. Dr. Muller has frequently had occasion to deplore the ‘resistance to the acceptance of genetic principles on the part of so many, not only of governmental appointees in the policy-making positions, but also of so many of the medical profession.’ The fact that chemicals may play a role similar to radiation has scarcely dawned on the public mind, nor on the minds of most medical or scientific workers. For this reason the role of chemicals in general use (rather than in laboratory experiments) has not yet been assessed. It is extremely important that this be done.

Sir Macfarlane is not alone in his estimate of the potential danger. Dr. Peter Alexander, an outstanding British authority, has said that the radiomimetic chemicals ‘may well represent a greater danger’ than radiation. Dr. Muller, with the perspective gained by decades of distinguished work in genetics, warns that various chemicals (including groups represented by pesticides) ‘can raise the mutation frequency as much as radiation…As yet far too little is known of the extent to which our genes, under modern conditions of exposure to unusual chemicals, are being subjected to such mutagenic influences.’

The widespread neglect of the problem of chemical mutagens is perhaps due to the fact that those first discovered were of scientific interest only. Nitrogen mustard, after all, is not sprayed upon whole populations from the air; its use is in the hands of experimental biologists or of physicians who use it in cancer therapy. (A case of chromosome damage in a patient receiving such therapy has recently been reported.) But insecticides and weed killers are brought into intimate contact with large numbers of people.

Despite the scant attention that has been given to the matter, it is possible to assemble specific information on a number of these pesticides, showing that they disturb the cell’s vital processes in ways ranging from slight chromosome damage to gene mutation, and with consequences extending to the ultimate disaster of malignancy.

Mosquitoes exposed to DDT for several generations turned into strange creatures called gynandromorphs—part male and part female.

Plants treated with various phenols suffered profound destruction of chromosomes, changes in genes, a striking number of mutations, ‘irreversible hereditary changes’. Mutations also occurred in fruit flies, the classic subject of

genetics experiments, when subjected to phenol; these flies developed mutations so damaging as to be fatal on exposure to one of the common herbicides or to urethane. Urethane belongs to the group of chemicals called carbamates, from which an increasing number of insecticides and other agricultural chemicals are drawn. Two of the carbamates are actually used to prevent sprouting of potatoes in storage—precisely because of their proven effect in stopping cell division. Another antisprouting agent, maleic hydrazide, is rated a powerful mutagen.

Plants treated with benzene hexachloride (BHC) or lindane became monstrously deformed with tumorlike swellings on their roots. Their cells grew in size, being swollen with chromosomes which doubled in number. The doubling continued in future divisions until further cell division became mechanically impossible.

The herbicide 2,4-D has also produced tumorlike swellings in treated plants. Chromosomes become short, thick, clumped together. Cell division is seriously retarded. The general effect is said to parallel closely that produced by Xrays.

These are but a few illustrations; many more could be cited. As yet there has been no comprehensive study aimed at testing the mutagenic effects of pesticides as such. The facts cited above are by-products of research in cell physiology or genetics. What is urgently needed is a direct attack on the problem.

Some scientists who are willing to concede the potent effect of environmental radiation on man nevertheless question whether mutagenic chemicals can, as a practical proposition, have the same effect. They cite the great penetrating power of radiation, but doubt that chemicals could reach the germ cells. Once again we are hampered by the fact that there has been little direct investigation of the problem in man. However, the finding of large residues of DDT in the gonads and germ cells of birds and mammals is strong evidence that the chlorinated hydrocarbons, at least, not only become widely distributed throughout the body but come into contact with genetic materials. Professor David E. Davis at Pennsylvania State University has recently discovered that a potent chemical which prevents cells from dividing and has had limited use in cancer therapy can also be used to cause sterility in birds. Sublethal levels of the chemical halt cell division in the gonads. Professor Davis has had some success in field trials. Obviously, then, there is little basis for the hope or belief that the gonads of any organism are shielded from chemicals in the environment.

Recent medical findings in the field of chromosome abnormalities are of extreme interest and significance. In 1959 several British and French research teams found their independent studies pointing to a common conclusion—that some of humanity’s ills are caused by a disturbance of the normal chromosome number. In certain diseases and abnormalities studied by these investigators the number differed from the normal. To illustrate: it is now known that all typical mongoloids have one extra chromosome. Occasionally this is attached to another so that the chromosome number remains the normal 46. As a rule, however, the extra is a separate chromosome, making the number 47. In such

individuals, the original cause of the defect must have occurred in the generation preceding its appearance.

A different mechanism seems to operate in a number of patients, both in America and Great Britain, who are suffering from a chronic form of leukemia. These have been found to have a consistent chromosome abnormality in some of the blood cells. The abnormality consists of the loss of part of a chromosome. In these patients the skin cells have a normal complement of chromosomes. This indicates that the chromosome defect did not occur in the germ cells that gave rise to these individuals, but represents damage to particular cells (in this case, the precursors of blood cells) that occurred during the life of the individual. The loss of part of a chromosome has perhaps deprived these cells of their ‘instructions’ for normal behavior.

The list of defects linked to chromosome disturbances has grown with surprising speed since the opening of this territory, hitherto beyond the boundaries of medical research. One, known only as Klinefelter’s syndrome, involves a duplication of one of the sex chromosomes. The resulting individual is a male, but because he carries two of the X chromosomes (becoming XXY instead of XY, the normal male complement) he is somewhat abnormal. Excessive height and mental defects often accompany the sterility caused by this condition. In contrast, an individual who receives only one sex chromosome (becoming XO instead of either XX or XY) is actually female but lacks many of the secondary sexual characteristics. The condition is accompanied by various physical (and sometimes mental) defects, for of course the X chromosome carries genes for a variety of characteristics. This is known as Turner’s syndrome. Both conditions had been described in medical literature long before the cause was known.

An immense amount of work on the subject of chromosome abnormalities is being done by workers in many countries. A group at the University of Wisconsin, headed by Dr. Klaus Patau, has been concentrating on a variety of congenital abnormalities, usually including mental retardation, that seem to result from the duplication of only part of a chromosome, as if somewhere in the formation of one of the germ cells a chromosome had broken and the pieces had not been properly redistributed. Such a mishap is likely to interfere with the normal development of the embryo.

According to present knowledge, the occurrence of an entire extra body chromosome is usually lethal, preventing survival of the embryo. Only three such conditions are known to be viable; one of them, of course, is mongolism. The presence of an extra attached fragment, on the other hand, although seriously damaging is not necessarily fatal, and according to the Wisconsin investigators this situation may well account for a substantial part of the so far unexplained cases in which a child is born with multiple defects, usually including mental retardation.

This is so new a field of study that as yet scientists have been more concerned with identifying the chromosome abnormalities associated with disease and defective development than with speculating about the causes. It would be foolish to assume that any single agent is responsible for damaging the chromosomes or causing their erratic behavior during cell division. But can we afford to ignore the fact that we are now filling the environment with chemicals that have the power to strike directly at the chromosomes, affecting them in the precise ways that could cause such conditions? Is this not too high a price to pay for a sproutless potato or a mosquitoless patio?

We can, if we wish, reduce this threat to our genetic heritage, a possession that has come down to us through some two billion years of evolution and selection of living protoplasm, a possession that is ours for the moment only, until we must pass it on to generations to come. We are doing little now to preserve its integrity. Although chemical manufacturers are required by law to test their materials for toxicity, they are not required to make the tests that would reliably demonstrate genetic effect, and they do not do so.



14.   One in Every Four


THE BATTLE of living things against cancer began so long ago that its origin is lost in time. But it must have begun in a natural environment, in which whatever life inhabited the earth was subjected, for good or ill, to influences that had their origin in sun and storm and the ancient nature of the earth. Some of the elements of this environment created hazards to which life had to adjust or perish. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight could cause malignancy. So could radiations from certain rocks, or arsenic washed out of soil or rocks to contaminate food or water supplies.

The environment contained these hostile elements even before there was life; yet life arose, and over the millions of years it came to exist in infinite numbers and endless variety. Over the eons of unhurried time that is nature’s, life reached an adjustment with destructive forces as selection weeded out the less adaptable and only the most resistant survived. These natural cancer-causing agents are still a factor in producing malignancy; however, they are few in number and they belong to that ancient array of forces to which life has been accustomed from the beginning.

With the advent of man the situation began to change, for man, alone of all forms of life, can create cancer-producing substances, which in medical terminology are called carcinogens. A few man-made carcinogens have been part of the environment for centuries. An example is soot, containing aromatic hydrocarbons. With the dawn of the industrial era the world became a place of continuous, ever-accelerating change. Instead of the natural environment there was rapidly substituted an artificial one composed of new chemical and physical agents, many of them possessing powerful capacities for inducing biologic change. Against these carcinogens which his own activities had created man had no protection, for even as his biological heritage has evolved slowly, so it adapts slowly to new conditions. As a result these powerful

substances could easily penetrate the inadequate defenses of the body.

The history of cancer is long, but our recognition of the agents that produce it has been slow to mature. The first awareness that external or environmental agents could produce malignant change dawned in the mind of a London physician nearly two centuries ago. In 1775 Sir Percivall Pott declared that the scrotal cancer so common among chimney sweeps must be caused by the soot that accumulated on their bodies. He could not furnish the ‘proof’ we would demand today, but modern research methods have now isolated the deadly chemical in soot and proved the correctness of his perception.

For a century or more after Pott’s discovery there seems to have been little further realization that certain of the chemicals in the human environment could cause cancer by repeated skin contact, inhalation, or swallowing. True, it had been noticed that skin cancer was prevalent among workers exposed to arsenic fumes in copper smelters and tin foundries in Cornwall and Wales. And it was realized that workers in the cobalt mines in Saxony and in the uranium mines at Joachimsthal in Bohemia were subject to a disease of the lungs, later identified as cancer. But these were phenomena of the pre-industrial era, before the flowering of the industries whose products were to pervade the environment of almost every living thing.

The first recognition of malignancies traceable to the age of industry came during the last quarter of the 19th century. About the time that Pasteur was demonstrating the microbial origin of many infectious diseases, others were discovering the chemical origin of cancer skin cancers among workers in the new lignite industry in Saxony and in the Scottish shale industry, along with other cancers caused by occupational exposure to tar and pitch. By the end of the 19th century a halfdozen sources of industrial carcinogens were known; the 20th century was to create countless new cancer-causing chemicals and to bring the general population into intimate contact with them. In the less than two centuries intervening since the work of Pott, the environmental situation has been vastly changed. No longer are exposures to dangerous chemicals occupational alone; they have entered the environment of everyone—even of children as yet unborn. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that we are now aware of an alarming increase in malignant disease.

The increase itself is no mere matter of subjective impressions. The monthly report of the Office of Vital Statistics for July 1959 states that malignant growths, including those of the lymphatic and blood-forming tissues, accounted for 15 per cent of the deaths in 1958 compared with only 4 per cent in 1900. Judging by the present incidence of the disease, the American Cancer Society estimates that 45,000,000 Americans now living will eventually develop cancer. This means that malignant disease will strike two out of three families.

The situation with respect to children is even more deeply disturbing. A quarter century ago, cancer in children was considered a medical rarity. Today, more American school children die of cancer than from any other disease. So serious has this situation become that Boston has established the first hospital in the United States devoted exclusively to the treatment of children with cancer. Twelve per cent of all deaths in children between the ages of one and fourteen are caused by cancer. Large numbers of malignant tumors are discovered clinically in children under the age of five, but it is an even grimmer fact that significant numbers of such growths are present at or before birth. Dr. W. C. Hueper of the National Cancer Institute, a foremost authority on environmental cancer, has suggested that congenital cancers and cancers in infants may be related to the action of cancer-producing agents to which the mother has been exposed during pregnancy and which penetrate the placenta to act on the rapidly developing fetal tissues. Experiments show that the younger the animal is when it is subjected to a cancer-producing agent the more certain is the production of cancer. Dr. Francis Ray of the University of Florida has warned that ‘we may be initiating cancer in the children of today by the addition of chemicals [to food]…We will not know, perhaps for a generation or two, what the effects will be.’

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The problem that concerns us here is whether any of the chemicals we are using in our attempts to control nature play a direct or indirect role as causes of cancer. In terms of evidence gained from animal experiments we shall see that five or possibly six of the pesticides must definitely be rated as carcinogens. The list is greatly lengthened if we add those considered by some physicians to cause leukemia in human patients. Here the evidence is circumstantial, as it must be since we do not experiment on human beings, but it is nonetheless impressive. Still other pesticides will be added as we include those whose action on living tissues or cells may be considered an indirect cause of malignancy.

One of the earliest pesticides associated with cancer is arsenic, occurring in sodium arsenite as a weed killer, and in calcium arsenate and various other compounds as insecticides. The association between arsenic and cancer in man and animals is historic. A fascinating example of the consequences of exposure to arsenic is related by Dr. Hueper in his Occupational Tumors, a classic monograph on the subject. The city of Reichenstein in Silesia had been for almost a thousand years the site of mining for gold and silver ores, and for several hundred years for arsenic ores. Over the centuries arsenic wastes accumulated in the vicinity of the mine shafts and were picked up by streams coming down from the mountains. The underground water also became contaminated, and arsenic entered the drinking water. For centuries many of the inhabitants of this region suffered from what came to be known as ‘the Reichenstein disease’—chronic arsenicism with accompanying disorders of the liver, skin, and gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Malignant tumors were a common accompaniment of the disease. Reichenstein’s disease is now chiefly of historic interest, for new water supplies were provided a quarter of a century ago, from which arsenic was largely eliminated. In Córdoba Province in Argentina, however, chronic arsenic poisoning, accompanied by arsenical skin cancers, is endemic because of the contamination of drinking water derived from rock formations containing arsenic.

It would not be difficult to create conditions similar to those in Reichenstein and Córdoba by long continued use of arsenical insecticides. In the United States the arsenic-drenched soils of tobacco plantations, of many orchards in the Northwest, and of blueberry lands in the East may easily lead to pollution of water supplies.

An arsenic-contaminated environment affects not only man but animals as well. A report of great interest came from Germany in 1936. In the area about Freiberg, Saxony, smelters for silver and lead poured arsenic fumes into the air, to drift out over the surrounding countryside and settle down upon the vegetation. According to Dr. Hueper, horses, cows, goats, and pigs, which of course fed on this vegetation, showed loss of hair and thickening of the skin. Deer inhabiting nearby forests sometimes had abnormal pigment spots and precancerous warts. One had a definitely cancerous lesion. Both domestic and wild animals were affected by ‘arsenical enteritis, gastric ulcers, and cirrhosis of the liver.’ Sheep kept near the smelters developed cancers of the nasal sinus; at their death arsenic was found in the brain, liver, and tumors. In the area there was also ‘an extraordinary mortality among insects, especially bees. After rainfalls which washed the arsenical dust from the leaves and carried it along into the water of brooks and pools, a great many fish died.’

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An example of a carcinogen belonging to the group of new, organic pesticides is a chemical widely used against mites and ticks. Its history provides abundant proof that, despite the supposed safeguards provided by legislation, the public can be exposed to a known carcinogen for several years before the slowly moving legal processes can bring the situation under control. The story is interesting from another standpoint, proving that what the public is asked to accept as ‘safe’ today may turn out tomorrow to be extremely dangerous.

When this chemical was introduced in 1955, the manufacturer applied for a tolerance which would sanction the presence of small residues on any crops that might be sprayed. As required by law, he had tested the chemical on laboratory animals and submitted the results with his application. However, scientists of the Food and Drug Administration interpreted the tests as showing a possible cancer-producing tendency and the Commissioner accordingly recommended a ‘zero tolerance’, which is a way of saying that no residues could legally occur on food shipped across state lines. But the manufacturer had the legal right to appeal and the case was accordingly reviewed by a committee. The committee’s decision was a compromise: a tolerance of 1 part per million was to be established and the product marketed for two years, during which time further laboratory tests were to determine whether the chemical was actually a carcinogen.

Although the committee did not say so, its decision meant that the public was to act as guinea pigs, testing the suspected carcinogen along with the laboratory dogs and rats. But laboratory animals give more prompt results, and after the two years it was evident that this miticide was indeed a carcinogen. Even at that point, in 1957, the Food and Drug Administration could not instantly rescind the tolerance which allowed residues of a known carcinogen to contaminate food consumed by the public. Another year was required for various legal procedures. Finally, in December 1958 the

zero tolerance which the Commissioner had recommended in 1955 became effective.

These are by no means the only known carcinogens among pesticides. In laboratory tests on animal subjects, DDT has produced suspicious liver tumors. Scientists of the Food and Drug Administration who reported the discovery of these tumors were uncertain how to classify them, but felt there was some ‘justification for considering them low grade hepatic cell carcinomas.’ Dr. Hueper now gives DDT the definite rating of a ‘chemical carcinogen’.

Two herbicides belonging to the carbamate group, IPC and CIPC, have been found to play a role in producing skin tumors in mice. Some of the tumors were malignant. These chemicals seem to initiate the malignant change, which may then be completed by other chemicals of types prevalent in the environment.

The weed-killer aminotriazole has caused thyroid cancer in test animals. This chemical was misused by a number of cranberry growers in 1959, producing residues on some of the marketed berries. In the controversy that followed seizure of contaminated cranberries by the Food and Drug Administration, the fact that the chemical actually is cancer producing was widely challenged, even by many medical men. The scientific facts released by the Food and Drug Administration clearly indicate the carcinogenic nature of aminotriazole in laboratory rats. When these animals were fed this chemical at the rate of 100 parts per million in the drinking water (or one teaspoonful of chemical in ten thousand teaspoonfuls of water) they began to develop thyroid tumors at the 68th week. After two years, such tumors were present in more than half the rats examined. They were diagnosed as various types of benign and malignant growths. The tumors also appeared at lower levels of feeding—in fact, a level that produced no effect was not found. No one knows, of course, the level at which aminotriazole may be carcinogenic for man, but as a professor of medicine at Harvard University, Dr. David Rutstein, has pointed out, the level is just as likely to be to man’s disfavor as to his advantage.

As yet insufficient time has elapsed to reveal the full effect of the new chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides and of the modern herbicides. Most malignancies develop so slowly that they may require a considerable segment of the victim’s life to reach the stage of showing clinical symptoms. In the early 1920s women who painted luminous figures on watch dials swallowed minute amounts of radium by touching the brushes to their lips; in some of these women bone cancers developed after a lapse of 15 or more years. A period of 15 to 30 years or even more has been demonstrated for some cancers caused by occupational exposures to chemical carcinogens.

In contrast to these industrial exposures to various carcinogens the first exposures to DDT date from about 1942 for military personnel and from about 1945 for civilians, and it was not until the early fifties that a wide variety of pesticidal chemicals came into use. The full maturing of whatever seeds of malignancy have been sown by these chemicals is yet to come.

There is, however, one presently known exception to the fact that a long period of latency is common to most malignancies. This exception is leukemia. Survivors of Hiroshima began to develop leukemia only three years after the atomic bombing, and there is now reason to believe the latent period may be considerably shorter. Other types of cancer may in time be found to have a relatively short latent period, also, but at present leukemia seems to be the exception to the general rule of extremely slow development.

Within the period covered by the rise of modern pesticides, the incidence of leukemia has been steadily rising. Figures available from the National Office of Vital Statistics clearly establish a disturbing rise in malignant diseases of the bloodforming tissues. In the year 1960, leukemia alone claimed 12,290 victims. Deaths from all types of malignancies of blood and lymph totaled 25,400, increasing sharply from the 16,690 figure of 1950. In terms of deaths per 100,000 of population, the increase is from 11.1 in 1950 to 14. 1 in 1960 The increase is by no means confined to the United States; in all countries the recorded deaths from leukemia at all ages are rising at a rate of 4 to 5 per cent a year. What does it mean? To what lethal agent or agents, new to our environment, are people now exposed with increasing frequency?

Such world-famous institutions as the Mayo Clinic admit hundreds of victims of these diseases of the blood-forming organs. Dr. Malcolm Hargraves and his associates in the Hematology Department at the Mayo Clinic report that almost without exception these patients have had a history of exposure to various toxic chemicals, including sprays which contain DDT, chlordane, benzene, lindane, and petroleum distillates.

Environmental diseases related to the use of various toxic substances have been increasing, ‘particularly during the past ten years’, Dr. Hargraves believes. From extensive clinical experience he believes that ‘the vast majority of patients suffering from the blood dyscrasias and lymphoid diseases have a significant history of exposure to the various hydrocarbons which in turn includes most of the pesticides of today. A careful medical history will almost invariably establish such a relationship.’ This specialist now has a large number of detailed case histories based on every patient he has seen with leukemias, aplastic anemias, Hodgkin’s disease, and other disorders of the blood and blood-forming tissues. ‘They had all been exposed to these environmental agents, with a fair amount of exposure,’ he reports.

What do these case histories show? One concerned a housewife who abhorred spiders. In mid-August she had gone into her basement with an aerosol spray containing DDT and petroleum distillate. She sprayed the entire basement thoroughly, under the stairs, in the fruit cupboards and in all the protected areas around ceiling and rafters. As she finished the spraying she began to feel quite ill, with nausea and extreme anxiety and nervousness. Within the next few days she felt better, however, and apparently not suspecting the cause of her difficulty, she repeated the entire procedure in September, running through two more cycles of spraying, falling ill, recovering temporarily, spraying again. After the third use of the aerosol new symptoms developed: fever, pains in the joints and general malaise, acute phlebitis in one leg. When examined by Dr. Hargraves she was found to be suffering from acute leukemia. She died within the

following month.

Another of Dr. Hargraves’ patients was a professional man who had his office in an old building infested by roaches. Becoming embarrassed by the presence of these insects, he took control measures in his own hands. He spent most of one Sunday spraying the basement and all secluded areas. The spray was a 25 per cent DDT concentrate suspended in a solvent containing methylated naphthalenes. Within a short time he began to bruise and bleed. He entered the clinic bleeding from a number of hemorrhages. Studies of his blood revealed a severe depression of the bone marrow called aplastic anemia. During the next five and one half months he received 59 transfusions in addition to other therapy. There was partial recovery but about nine years later a fatal leukemia developed.

Where pesticides are involved, the chemicals that figure most prominently in the case histories are DDT, lindane, benzene hexachloride, the nitrophenols, the common moth crystal paradichlorobenzene, chlordane, and, of course, the solvents in which they are carried. As this physician emphasizes, pure exposure to a single chemical is the exception, rather than the rule. The commercial product usually contains combinations of several chemicals, suspended in a petroleum distillate plus some dispersing agent. The aromatic cyclic and unsaturated hydrocarbons of the vehicle may themselves be a major factor in the damage done the blood-forming organs. From the practical rather than the medical standpoint this distinction is of little importance, however, because these petroleum solvents are an inseparable part of most common spraying practices.

The medical literature of this and other countries contains many significant cases that support Dr. Hargraves’ belief in a cause-and-effect relation between these chemicals and leukemia and other blood disorders. They concern such everyday people as farmers caught in the ‘fallout’ of their own spray rigs or of planes, a college student who sprayed his study for ants and remained in the room to study, a woman who had installed a portable lindane vaporizer in her home, a worker in a cotton field that had been sprayed with chlordane and toxaphene. They carry, half concealed within their medical terminology, stories of such human tragedies as that of two young cousins in Czechoslovakia, boys who lived in the same town and had always worked and played together. Their last and most fateful employment was at a farm cooperative where it was their job to unload sacks of an insecticide (benzene hexachloride). Eight months later one of the boys was stricken with acute leukemia. In nine days he was dead. At about this time his cousin began to tire easily and to run a temperature. Within about three months his symptoms became more severe and he, too, was hospitalized. Again the diagnosis was acute leukemia, and again the disease ran its inevitably fatal course.

And then there is the case of a Swedish farmer, strangely reminiscent of that of the Japanese fisherman Kuboyama of the tuna vessel the Lucky Dragon. Like Kuboyama, the farmer had been a healthy man, gleaning his living from the land as Kuboyama had taken his from the sea. For each man a poison drifting out of the sky carried a death sentence. For one, it was radiation-poisoned ash; for the other, chemical dust. The farmer had treated about 60 acres of land with a dust containing DDT and benzene hexachloride. As he worked puffs of wind brought little clouds of dust swirling about him. ‘In the evening he felt unusually tired, and during the subsequent days he had a general feeling of weakness, with backache and aching legs as well as chills, and was obliged to take to his bed,’ says a report from the Medical Clinic at Lund. ‘His condition became worse, however, and on May 19 [a week after the spraying] he applied for admission to the local hospital.’ He had a high fever and his blood count was abnormal. He was transferred to the Medical Clinic, where, after an illness of two and one half months, he died. A post-mortem examination revealed a complete wasting away of the bone marrow.

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How a normal and necessary process such as cell division can become altered so that it is alien and destructive is a problem that has engaged the attention of countless scientists and untold sums of money. What happens in a cell to change its orderly multiplication into the wild and uncontrolled proliferation of cancer?

When answers are found they will almost certainly be multiple. Just as cancer itself is a disease that wears many guises, appearing in various forms that differ in their origin, in the course of their development, and in the factors that influence their growth or regression, so there must be a corresponding variety of causes. Yet underlying them all, perhaps, only a few basic kinds of injuries to the cell are responsible. Here and there, in research widely scattered and sometimes not undertaken as a cancer study at all, we see glimmerings of the first light that may one day illuminate this problem.

Again we find that only by looking at some of the smallest units of life, the cell and its chromosomes, can we find that wider vision needed to penetrate such mysteries. Here, in this microcosm, we must look for those factors that somehow shift the marvelously functioning mechanisms of the cell out of their normal patterns.

One of the most impressive theories of the origin of cancer cells was developed by a German biochemist, Professor Otto Warburg of the Max Planck Institute of Cell Physiology. Warburg has devoted a lifetime of study to the complex processes of oxidation within the cell. Out of this broad background of understanding came a fascinating and lucid explanation of the way a normal cell can become malignant.

Warburg believes that either radiation or a chemical carcinogen acts by destroying the respiration of normal cells, thus depriving them of energy. This action may result from minute doses often repeated. The effect, once achieved, is irreversible. The cells not killed outright by the impact of such a respiratory poison struggle to compensate for the loss of energy. They can no longer carry on that extraordinary and efficient cycle by which vast amounts of ATP are produced, but are thrown back on a primitive and far less efficient method, that of fermentation. The struggle to survive by fermentation continues for a long period of time. It continues through ensuing cell divisions, so that all the descendant cells have this abnormal method of respiration. Once a cell has lost its normal respiration it cannot regain it—not in a year, not in a decade or in many decades. But little by little, in this grueling struggle to restore lost energy, those cells that survive begin to compensate by increased fermentation. It is a Darwinian struggle, in which only the most fit or adaptable survive. At last they reach the point where fermentation is able to produce as much energy as respiration. At this point, cancer cells may be said to have been created from normal body cells.

Warburg’s theory explains many otherwise puzzling things. The long latent period of most cancers is the time required for the infinite number of cell divisions during which fermentation is gradually increasing after the initial damage to respiration. The time required for fermentation to become dominant varies in different species because of different fermentation rates: a short time in the rat, in which cancers appear quickly, a long time (decades even) in man, in whom the development of malignancy is a deliberate process.

The Warburg theory also explains why repeated small doses of a carcinogen are more dangerous under some circumstances than a single large dose. The latter may kill the cells outright, whereas the small doses allow some to survive, though in a damaged condition. These survivors may then develop into cancer cells. This is why there is no ‘safe’ dose of a carcinogen.

In Warburg’s theory we also find explanation of an otherwise incomprehensible fact—that one and the same agent can be useful in treating cancer and can also cause it. This, as everyone knows, is true of radiation, which kills cancer cells but may also cause cancer. It is also true of many of the chemicals now used against cancer. Why? Both types of agents damage respiration. Cancer cells already have a defective respiration, so with additional damage they die. The normal cells, suffering respiratory damage for the first time, are not killed but are set on the path that may eventually lead to malignancy.

Warburg’s ideas received confirmation in 1953 when other workers were able to turn normal cells into cancer cells merely by depriving them of oxygen intermittently over long periods. Then in 1961 other confirmation came, this time from living animals rather than tissue cultures. Radioactive tracer substances were injected into cancerous mice. Then by careful measurements of their respiration, it was found that the fermentation rate was markedly above normal, just as Warburg had foreseen.

Measured by the standards established by Warburg, most pesticides meet the criterion of the perfect carcinogen too well for comfort. As we have seen in the preceding chapter, many of the chlorinated hydrocarbons, the phenols, and some herbicides interfere with oxidation and energy production within the cell. By these means they may be creating sleeping cancer cells, in which an irreversible malignancy will slumber long and undetected until finally—its cause long forgotten

and even unsuspected—it flares into the open as recognizable cancer.

Another path to cancer may be by way of the chromosomes. Many of the most distinguished research men in this field look with suspicion on any agent that damages the chromosomes, interferes with cell division, or causes mutations. In the view of these men any mutation is a potential cause of cancer. Although discussions of mutations usually refer to those in the germ cells, which may then make their effect felt in future generations, there may also be mutations in the body cells. According to the mutation theory of the origin of cancer, a cell, perhaps under the influence of radiation or of a chemical, develops a mutation that allows it to escape the controls the body normally asserts over cell division. It is therefore able to multiply in a wild and unregulated manner. The new cells resulting from these divisions have the same ability to escape control, and in time enough such cells have accumulated to constitute a cancer.

Other investigators point to the fact that the chromosomes in cancer tissue are unstable; they tend to be broken or damaged, the number may be erratic, there may even be double sets.

The first investigators to trace chromosome abnormalities all the way to actual malignancy were Albert Levan and John J. Biesele, working at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York. As to which came first, the malignancy or the disturbance of the chromosomes, these workers say without hesitation that ‘the chromosomal irregularities precede the malignancy.’ Perhaps, they speculate, after the initial chromosome damage and the resulting instability there is a long period of trial and error through many cell generations (the long latent period of malignancy) during which a collection of mutations is finally accumulated which allow the cells to escape from control and embark on the unregulated multiplication that is cancer.

Ojvind Winge, one of the early proponents of the theory of chromosome instability, felt that chromosome doublings were especially significant. Is it coincidence, then, that benzene hexachloride and its relative, lindane, are known through repeated observations to double the chromosomes in experimental plants —and that these same chemicals have been implicated in many well-documented cases of fatal anemias? And what of the many other pesticides that interfere with cell division, break chromosomes, cause mutations?

It is easy to see why leukemia should be one of the most common diseases to result from exposure to radiation or to chemicals that imitate radiation. The principal targets of physical or chemical mutagenic agents are cells that are undergoing especially active division. This includes various tissues but most importantly those engaged in the production of blood. The bone marrow is the chief producer of red blood cells throughout life, sending some 10 million new cells per second into the bloodstream of man. White corpuscles are formed in the lymph glands and in some of the marrow cells at a variable, but still prodigious, rate.

Certain chemicals, again reminding us of radiation products like Strontium 90, have a peculiar affinity for the bone marrow. Benzene, a frequent constituent of insecticidal solvents, lodges in the marrow and remains deposited there for periods known to be as long as 20 months. Benzene itself has been recognized in medical literature for many years as a cause of leukemia.

The rapidly growing tissues of a child would also afford conditions most suitable for the development of malignant cells. Sir Macfarlane Burnet has pointed out that not only is leukemia increasing throughout the world but it has become most common in the three- to four-year age bracket, an age incidence shown by no other disease. According to this authority, ‘The peak between three and four years of age can hardly have any other interpretation than exposure of the young organism to a mutagenic stimulus around the time of birth.’

Another mutagen known to produce cancer is urethane. When pregnant mice are treated with this chemical not only do they develop cancer of the lung but their young do, also. The only exposure of the infant mice to urethane was prenatal in these experiments, proving that the chemical must have passed through the placenta. In human populations exposed to urethane or related chemicals there is a possibility that tumors will develop in infants through prenatal exposure, as Dr. Hueper has warned.

Urethane as a carbamate is chemically related to the herbicides  IPC and CIPC. Despite the warnings of cancer experts, carbamates are now widely used, not only as insecticides, weed killers, and fungicides, but also in a variety of products including plasticizers, medicines, clothing, and insulating materials.

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The road to cancer may also be an indirect one. A substance that is not a carcinogen in the ordinary sense may disturb the normal functioning of some part of the body in such a way that malignancy results. Important examples are the cancers, especially of the reproductive system, that appear to be linked with disturbances of the balance of sex hormones; these disturbances, in turn, may in some cases be the result of something that affects the ability of the liver to preserve a proper level of these hormones. The chlorinated hydrocarbons are precisely the kind of agent that can bring about this kind of indirect carcinogenesis, because all of them are toxic in some degree to the liver.

The sex hormones are, of course, normally present in the body and perform a necessary growth-stimulating function in relation to the various organs of reproduction. But the body has a built-in protection against excessive accumulations, for the liver acts to keep a proper balance between male and female hormones (both are produced in the bodies of both sexes, although in different amounts) and to prevent an excess accumulation of either. It cannot do so, however, if it has been damaged by disease or chemicals, or if the supply of the B-complex vitamins has been reduced. Under these conditions the estrogens build up to abnormally high levels.

What are the effects? In animals, at least, there is abundant evidence from experiments. In one such, an investigator at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research found that rabbits with livers damaged by disease show a very high incidence of uterine tumors, thought to have developed because the liver was no longer able to inactivate the estrogens in the blood, so that they ‘subsequently rose to a carcinogenic level.’ Extensive experiments on mice, rats, guinea pigs, and monkeys show that prolonged administration of estrogens (not necessarily at high levels) has caused changes in the tissues of the reproductive organs, ‘varying from benign overgrowth to definite malignancy’. Tumors of the kidneys have been induced in hamsters by administering estrogens.

Although medical opinion is divided on the question, much evidence exists to support the view that similar effects may occur in human tissues. Investigators at the Royal Victoria Hospital at McGill University found two thirds of 150 cases of uterine cancer studied by them gave evidence of abnormally high estrogen levels. In 90 per cent of a later series of 20 cases there was similar high estrogen activity.

It is possible to have liver damage sufficient to interfere with estrogen elimination without detection of the damage by any tests now available to the medical profession. This can easily be caused by the chlorinated hydrocarbons, which, as we have seen, set up changes in liver cells at very low levels of intake. They also cause loss of the B vitamins. This, too, is extremely important, for other chains of evidence show the protective role of these vitamins against cancer. The late C. P. Rhoads, onetime director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, found that test animals exposed to a very potent chemical carcinogen developed no cancer if they had been fed yeast, a rich source of the natural B vitamins. A deficiency of these vitamins has been found to accompany mouth cancer and perhaps cancer of other sites in the digestive tract. This has been observed not only in the United States but in the far northern parts of Sweden and Finland, where the diet is ordinarily deficient in vitamins. Groups prone to primary liver cancer, as for example the Bantu tribes of Africa, are typically subject to malnutrition. Cancer of the male breast is also prevalent in parts of Africa, associated with liver disease and malnutrition. In postwar Greece enlargement of the male breast was a common accompaniment of periods of starvation.

In brief, the argument for the indirect role of pesticides in cancer is based on their proven ability to damage the liver and to reduce the supply of B vitamins, thus leading to an increase in the ‘endogenous’ estrogens, or those produced by the body itself. Added to these are the wide variety of synthetic estrogens to which we are increasingly exposed—those in cosmetics, drugs, foods, and occupational exposures. The combined effect is a matter that warrants the most serious concern.

.    .    .

Human exposures to cancer-producing chemicals (including pesticides) are uncontrolled and they are multiple. An individual may have many different exposures to the same chemical. Arsenic is an example. It exists in the environment of every individual in many different guises: as an air pollutant, a contaminant of water, a pesticide residue on food, in medicines, cosmetics, wood preservatives, or as a coloring agent in paints and inks. It is quite possible that no one of these exposures alone would be sufficient to precipitate malignancy—yet any single supposedly ‘safe dose’ may be enough to tip the scales that are already loaded with other ‘safe doses’.

Or again the harm may be done by two or more different carcinogens acting together, so that there is a summation of their effects. The individual exposed to DDT, for example, is almost certain to be exposed to other liver-damaging hydrocarbons, which are so widely used as solvents, paint removers, degreasing agents, dry-cleaning fluids, and anesthetics. What then can be a ‘safe dose’ of DDT?

The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that one chemical may act on another to alter its effect. Cancer may sometimes require the complementary action of two chemicals, one of which sensitizes the cell or tissue so that it may later, under the action of another or promoting agent, develop true malignancy. Thus, the herbicides IPC and CIPC may act as initiators in the production of skin tumors, sowing the seeds of malignancy that may be brought into actual being by something else—perhaps a common detergent.

There may be interaction, too, between a physical and a chemical agent. Leukemia may occur as a two-step process, the malignant change being initiated by X-radiation, the promoting action being supplied by a chemical, as, for example, urethane. The growing exposure of the population to radiation from various sources, plus the many contacts with a host of chemicals suggest a grave new problem for the modern world.

The pollution of water supplies with radioactive materials poses another problem. Such materials, present as contaminants in water that also contains chemicals, may actually change the nature of the chemicals by the impact of ionizing radiation, rearranging their atoms in unpredictable ways to create new chemicals.

Water pollution experts throughout the United States are concerned by the fact that detergents are now a troublesome and practically universal contaminant of public water supplies. There is no practical way to remove them by treatment. Few detergents are known to be carcinogenic, but in an indirect way they may promote cancer by acting on the lining of the digestive tract, changing the tissues so that they more easily absorb dangerous chemicals, thereby aggravating their effect. But who can foresee and control this action? In the kaleidoscope of shifting conditions, what dose of a carcinogen can be ‘safe’ except a zero dose?

We tolerate cancer-causing agents in our environment at our peril, as was clearly illustrated by a recent happening. In the spring of 1961 an epidemic of liver cancer appeared among rainbow trout in many federal, state, and private hatcheries. Trout in both eastern and western parts of the United States were affected; in some areas practically 100 per cent of the trout over three years of age developed cancer. This discovery was made because of a preexisting arrangement between the Environmental Cancer Section of the National Cancer Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service for the reporting of all fish with tumors, so that early warning might be had of a cancer hazard to man from water contaminants.

Although studies are still under way to determine the exact cause of this epidemic over so wide an area, the best evidence is said to point to some agent present in the prepared hatchery feeds. These contain an incredible variety of chemical additives and medicinal agents in addition to the basic foodstuffs.

The story of the trout is important for many reasons, but chiefly as an example of what can happen when a potent carcinogen is introduced into the environment of any species. Dr. Hueper has described this epidemic as a serious warning that greatly increased attention must be given to controlling the number and variety of environmental carcinogens. ‘If such preventive measures are not taken,’ says Dr. Hueper, ‘the stage will be set at a progressive rate for the future occurrence of a similar disaster to the human population.’

The discovery that we are, as one investigator phrased it, living in a ‘sea of carcinogens’ is of course dismaying and may easily lead to reactions of despair and defeatism. ‘Isn’t it a hopeless situation?’ is the common reaction. ‘Isn’t it impossible even to attempt to eliminate these cancer-producing agents from our world? Wouldn’t it be better not to waste time trying, but instead to put all our efforts into research to find a cure for cancer?’

When this question is put to Dr. Hueper, whose years of distinguished work in cancer make his opinion one to respect, his reply is given with the thoughtfulness of one who has pondered it long, and has a lifetime of research and experience behind his judgment. Dr. Hueper believes that our situation with regard to cancer today is very similar to that which faced mankind with regard to infectious diseases in the closing years of the 19th century. The causative relation between pathogenic organisms and many diseases had been established through the brilliant work of Pasteur and Koch. Medical men and even the general public were becoming aware that the human environment was inhabited by an enormous number of microorganisms capable of causing disease, just as today carcinogens pervade our surroundings. Most infectious diseases have now been brought under a reasonable degree of control and some have been practically eliminated. This brilliant medical achievement came about by an attack that was twofold—that stressed prevention as well as cure. Despite the prominence that ‘magic bullets’ and ‘wonder drugs’ hold in the layman’s mind, most of the really decisive battles in the war against infectious disease consisted of measures to eliminate disease organisms from the environment. An example from history concerns the great outbreak of cholera in London more than one hundred years ago. A London physician, John Snow, mapped the occurrence of cases and found they originated in one area, all of whose inhabitants drew their water from one pump located on Broad Street. In a swift and decisive practice of preventive medicine, Dr.

Snow removed the handle from the pump. The epidemic was brought under control—not by a magic pill that killed the (then unknown) organism of cholera, but by eliminating the organism from the environment. Even therapeutic measures have the important result not only of curing the patient but of reducing the foci of infection. The present comparative rarity of tuberculosis results in large measure from the fact that the average person now seldom comes into contact with the tubercle bacillus.

Today we find our world filled with cancer-producing agents. An attack on cancer that is concentrated wholly or even largely on therapeutic measures (even assuming a ‘cure’ could be found) in Dr. Hueper’s opinion will fail because it leaves untouched the great reservoirs of carcinogenic agents which would continue to claim new victims faster than the as yet elusive ‘cure’ could allay the disease.

Why have we been slow to adopt this common-sense approach to the cancer problem? Probably ‘the goal of curing the victims of cancer is more exciting, more tangible, more glamorous and rewarding than prevention,’ says Dr. Hueper. Yet to prevent cancer from ever being formed is ‘definitely more humane’ and can be ‘much more effective than cancer cures’. Dr. Hueper has little patience with the wishful thinking that promises ‘a magic pill that we shall take each morning before breakfast’ as protection against cancer. Part of the public trust in such an eventual outcome results from the misconception that cancer is a single, though mysterious disease, with a single cause and, hopefully, a single cure. This of course is far from the known truth. Just as environmental cancers are induced by a wide variety of chemical and physical agents, so the malignant condition itself is manifested in many different and biologically distinct ways.

The long promised ‘breakthrough’, when or if it comes, cannot be expected to be a panacea for all types of malignancy. Although the search must be continued for therapeutic measures to relieve and to cure those who have already become victims of cancer, it is a disservice to humanity to hold out the hope that the solution will come suddenly, in a single master stroke. It will come slowly, one step at a time. Meanwhile as we pour our millions into research and invest all our hopes in vast programs to find cures for established cases of cancer, we are neglecting the golden opportunity to prevent, even while we seek to cure.

The task is by no means a hopeless one. In one important respect the outlook is more encouraging than the situation regarding infectious disease at the turn of the century. The world was then full of disease germs, as today it is full of carcinogens. But man did not put the germs into the environment and his role in spreading them was involuntary. In contrast, man has put the vast majority of carcinogens into the environment, and he can, if he wishes, eliminate many of them. The chemical agents of cancer have become entrenched in our world in two ways: first, and ironically, through man’s search for a better and easier way of life; second, because the manufacture and sale of such chemicals has become an accepted part of our economy and our way of life.

It would be unrealistic to suppose that all chemical carcinogens can or will be eliminated from the modern world. But a very large proportion are by no means necessities of life. By their elimination the total load of carcinogens would be enormously lightened, and the threat that one in every four will develop cancer would at least be greatly mitigated. The most determined effort should be made to eliminate those carcinogens that now contaminate our food, our water supplies, and our atmosphere, because these provide the most dangerous type of contact—minute exposures, repeated over and over throughout the years.

Among the most eminent men in cancer research are many others who share Dr. Hueper’s belief that malignant diseases can be reduced significantly by determined efforts to identify the environmental causes and to eliminate them or reduce their impact. For those in whom cancer is already a hidden or a visible presence, efforts to find cures must of course continue. But for those not yet touched by the disease and certainly for the generations as yet unborn, prevention is the imperative need.


15.   Nature Fights Back


TO HAVE RISKED so much in our efforts to mold nature to our satisfaction and yet to have failed in achieving our goal would indeed be the final irony. Yet this, it seems, is our situation. The truth, seldom mentioned but there for anyone to see, is that nature is not so easily molded and that the insects are finding ways to circumvent our chemical attacks on them.

‘The insect world is nature’s most astonishing phenomenon,’ said the Dutch biologist C. J. Briejèr. ‘Nothing is impossible to it; the most improbable things commonly occur there. One who penetrates deeply into its mysteries is continually breathless with wonder. He knows that anything can happen, and that the completely impossible often does.’

The ‘impossible’ is now happening on two broad fronts. By a process of genetic selection, the insects are developing strains resistant to chemicals. This will be discussed in the following chapter. But the broader problem, which we shall look at now, is the fact that our chemical attack is weakening the defenses inherent in the environment itself, defenses designed to keep the various species in check. Each time we breach these defenses a horde of insects pours through.

From all over the world come reports that make it clear we are in a serious predicament. At the end of a decade or more of intensive chemical control, entomologists were finding that problems they had considered solved a few years earlier had returned to plague them. And new problems had arisen as insects once present only in insignificant numbers had increased to the status of serious pests. By their very nature chemical controls are self-defeating, for they have been devised and applied without taking into account the complex biological systems against which they have been blindly

hurled. The chemicals may have been pretested against a few individual species, but not against living communities.

In some quarters nowadays it is fashionable to dismiss the balance of nature as a state of affairs that prevailed in an earlier, simpler world—a state that has now been so thoroughly upset that we might as well forget it. Some find this a convenient assumption, but as a chart for a course of action it is highly dangerous. The balance of nature is not the same today as in Pleistocene times, but it is still there: a complex, precise, and highly integrated system of relationships between living things which cannot safely be ignored any more than the law of gravity can be defied with impunity by a man perched on the edge of a cliff. The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment. Man, too, is part of this balance. Sometimes the balance is in his favor; sometimes—and all too often through his own activities—it is shifted to his disadvantage.

Two critically important facts have been overlooked in designing the modern insect control programs. The first is that the really effective control of insects is that applied by nature, not by man. Populations are kept in check by something the ecologists call the resistance of the environment, and this has been so since the first life was created. The amount of food available, conditions of weather and climate, the presence of competing or predatory species, all are critically important. ‘The greatest single factor in preventing insects from overwhelming the rest of the world is the internecine warfare which they carry out among themselves,’ said the entomologist Robert Metcalf. Yet most of the chemicals now used kill all insects, our friends and enemies alike.

The second neglected fact is the truly explosive power of a species to reproduce once the resistance of the environment has been weakened. The fecundity of many forms of life is almost beyond our power to imagine, though now and then we have suggestive glimpses. I remember from student days the miracle that could be wrought in a jar containing a simple mixture of hay and water merely by adding to it a few drops of material from a mature culture of protozoa. Within a few days the jar would contain a whole galaxy of whirling, darting life—uncountable trillions of the slipper animalcule, Paramecium, each small as a dust grain, all multiplying without restraint in their temporary Eden of favorable temperatures, abundant food, absence of enemies. Or I think of shore rocks white with barnacles as far as the eye can see, or of the spectacle of passing through an immense school of jellyfish, mile after mile, with seemingly no end to the pulsing, ghostly forms scarcely more substantial than the water itself.

We see the miracle of nature’s control at work when the cod move through winter seas to their spawning grounds, where each female deposits several millions of eggs. The sea does not become a solid mass of cod as it would surely do if all the progeny of all the cod were to survive. The checks that exist in nature are such that out of the millions of young produced by each pair only enough, on the average, survive to adulthood to replace the parent fish.

Biologists used to entertain themselves by speculating as to what would happen if, through some unthinkable

catastrophe, the natural restraints were thrown off and all the progeny of a single individual survived. Thus Thomas Huxley a century ago calculated that a single female aphis (which has the curious power of reproducing without mating) could produce progeny in a single year’s time whose total weight would equal that of the inhabitants of the Chinese empire of his day.

Fortunately for us such an extreme situation is only theoretical, but the dire results of upsetting nature’s own arrangements are well known to students of animal populations. The stockman’s zeal for eliminating the coyote has resulted in plagues of field mice, which the coyote formerly controlled. The oft repeated story of the Kaibab deer in Arizona is another case in point. At one time the deer population was in equilibrium with its environment. A number of predators—wolves, pumas, and coyotes—prevented the deer from outrunning their food supply. Then a campaign was begun to ‘conserve’ the deer by killing off their enemies. Once the predators were gone, the deer increased prodigiously and soon there was not enough food for them. The browse line on the trees went higher and higher as they sought food, and in time many more deer were dying of starvation than had formerly been killed by predators. The whole environment, moreover, was damaged by their desperate efforts to find food.

The predatory insects of field and forests play the same role as the wolves and coyotes of the Kaibab. Kill them off and the population of the prey insect surges upward.

No one knows how many species of insects inhabit the earth because so many are yet to be identified. But more than 700,000 have already been described. This means that in terms of the number of species, 70 to 80 per cent of the earth’s creatures are insects. The vast majority of these insects are held in check by natural forces, without any intervention by man. If this were not so, it is doubtful that any conceivable volume of chemicals —or any other methods—could possibly keep down their populations.

The trouble is that we are seldom aware of the protection afforded by natural enemies until it fails. Most of us walk unseeing through the world, unaware alike of its beauties, its wonders, and the strange and sometimes terrible intensity of the lives that are being lived about us. So it is that the activities of the insect predators and parasites are known to few. Perhaps we may have noticed an oddly shaped insect of ferocious mien on a bush in the garden and been dimly aware that the praying mantis lives at the expense of other insects. But we see with understanding eye only if we have walked in the garden at night and here and there with a flashlight have glimpsed the mantis stealthily creeping upon her prey. Then we sense something of the drama of the hunter and the hunted. Then we begin to feel something of that relentlessly pressing force by which nature controls her own.

The predators—insects that kill and consume other insects—are of many kinds. Some are quick and with the speed of swallows snatch their prey from the air. Others plod methodically along a stem, plucking off and devouring sedentary insects like the aphids. The yellowjackets capture soft-bodied insects and feed the juices to their young. Muddauber

wasps build columned nests of mud under the caves of houses and stock them with insects on which their young will feed. The horseguard wasp hovers above herds of grazing cattle, destroying the blood-sucking flies that torment them. The loudly buzzing syrphid fly, often mistaken for a bee, lays its eggs on leaves of aphis-infested plants; the hatching larvae then consume immense numbers of aphids. Ladybugs or lady beetles are among the most effective destroyers of aphids, scale insects, and other plant-eating insects. Literally hundreds of aphids are consumed by a single ladybug to stoke the little fires of energy which she requires to produce even a single batch of eggs.

Even more extraordinary in their habits are the parasitic insects. These do not kill their hosts outright. Instead, by a variety of adaptations they utilize their victims for the nurture of their own young. They may deposit their eggs within the larvae or eggs of their prey, so that their own developing young may find food by consuming the host. Some attach their eggs to a caterpillar by means of a sticky solution; on hatching, the larval parasite bores through the skin of the host. Others, led by an instinct that simulates foresight, merely lay their eggs on a leaf so that a browsing caterpillar will eat them inadvertently.

Everywhere, in field and hedgerow and garden and forest, the insect predators and parasites are at work. Here, above a pond, the dragonflies dart and the sun strikes fire from their wings. So their ancestors sped through swamps where huge reptiles lived. Now, as in those ancient times, the sharp-eyed  capture mosquitoes in the air, scooping them in with basket-shaped legs. In the waters below, their young, the dragonfly nymphs, or naiads, prey on the aquatic stages of mosquitoes and other insects.

Or there, almost invisible against a leaf, is the lacewing, with green gauze wings and golden eyes, shy and secretive, descendant of an ancient race that lived in Permian times. The adult lacewing feeds mostly on plant nectars and the honeydew of aphids, and in time she lays her eggs, each on the end of a long stalk which she fastens to a leaf. From these emerge her children—strange, bristled larvae called aphis lions, which live by preying on aphids, scales, or mites, which they capture and suck dry of fluid. Each may consume several hundred aphids before the ceaseless turning of the cycle of its life brings the time when it will spin a white silken cocoon in which to pass the pupa stage.

And there are many wasps, and flies as well, whose very existence depends on the destruction of the eggs or larvae of other insects through parasitism. Some of the egg parasites are exceedingly minute wasps, yet by their numbers and their great activity they hold down the abundance of many crop-destroying species.

All these small creatures are working—working in sun and rain, during the hours of darkness, even when winter’s grip has damped down the fires of life to mere embers. Then this vital force is merely smoldering, awaiting the time to flare again into activity when spring awakens the insect world. Meanwhile, under the white blanket of snow, below the frosthardened soil, in crevices in the bark of trees, and in sheltered caves, the parasites and the predators have found ways to

tide themselves over the season of cold.

The eggs of the mantis are secure in little cases of thin parchment attached to the branch of a shrub by the mother who lived her life span with the summer that is gone.

The female Polistes wasp, taking shelter in a forgotten corner of some attic, carries in her body the fertilized eggs, the heritage on which the whole future of her colony depends. She, the lone survivor, will start a small paper nest in the spring, lay a few eggs in its cells, and carefully rear a small force of workers. With their help she will then enlarge the nest and develop the colony. Then the workers, foraging ceaselessly through the hot days of summer, will destroy countless caterpillars.

Thus, through the circumstances of their lives, and the nature of our own wants, all these have been our allies in keeping the balance of nature tilted in our favor. Yet we have turned our artillery against our friends. The terrible danger is that we have grossly underestimated their value in keeping at bay a dark tide of enemies that, without their help, can overrun us.

The prospect of a general and permanent lowering of environmental resistance becomes grimly and increasingly real with each passing year as the number, variety, and destructiveness of insecticides grows. With the passage of time we may expect progressively more serious outbreaks of insects, both disease-carrying and crop-destroying species, in excess of anything we have ever known.

‘Yes, but isn’t this all theoretical?’ you may ask. ‘Surely it won’t really happen—not in my lifetime, anyway.’

But it is happening, here and now. Scientific journals had already recorded some 50 species involved in violent dislocations of nature’s balance by 1958. More examples are being found every year. A recent review of the subject contained references to 215 papers reporting or discussing unfavorable upsets in the balance of insect populations caused by pesticides.

Sometimes the result of chemical spraying has been a tremendous upsurge of the very insect the spraying was intended to control, as when blackflies in Ontario became 17 times more abundant after spraying than they had been before. Or when in England an enormous outbreak of the cabbage aphid—an outbreak that had no parallel on record—followed spraying with one of the organic phosphorus chemicals.

At other times spraying, while reasonably effective against the target insect, has let loose a whole Pandora’s box of destructive pests that had never previously been abundant enough to cause trouble. The spider mite, for example, has become practically a worldwide pest as DDT and other insecticides have killed off its enemies. The spider mite is not an insect. It is a barely visible eight-legged creature belonging to the group that includes spiders, scorpions, and ticks. It has

mouth parts adapted for piercing and sucking, and a prodigious appetite for the chlorophyll that makes the world green. It inserts these minute and stiletto-sharp mouth parts into the outer cells of leaves and evergreen needles and extracts the chlorophyll. A mild infestation gives trees and shrubbery a mottled or salt-and-pepper appearance; with a heavy mite population, foliage turns yellow and falls.

This is what happened in some of the western national forests a few years ago, when in 1956 the United States Forest Service sprayed some 885,000 acres of forested lands with DDT. The intention was to control the spruce budworm, but the following summer it was discovered that a problem worse than the budworm damage had been created. In surveying the forests from the air, vast blighted areas could be seen where the magnificent Douglas firs were turning brown and dropping their needles. In the Helena National Forest and on the western slopes of the Big Belt Mountains, then in other areas of Montana and down into Idaho the forests looked as though they had been scorched. It was evident that this summer of 1957 had brought the most extensive and spectacular infestation of spider mites in history. Almost all of the sprayed area was affected. Nowhere else was the damage evident. Searching for precedents, the foresters could remember other scourges of spider mites, though less dramatic than this one. There had been similar trouble along the Madison River in Yellowstone Park in 1929, in Colorado 20 years later, and then in New Mexico in 1956. Each of these outbreaks had followed forest spraying with insecticides. (The 1929 spraying, occurring before the DDT era, employed lead arsenate.)

Why does the spider mite appear to thrive on insecticides? Besides the obvious fact that it is relatively insensitive to them, there seem to be two other reasons. In nature it is kept in check by various predators such as ladybugs, a gall midge, predaceous mites and several pirate bugs, all of them extremely sensitive to insecticides. The third reason has to do with population pressure within the spider mite colonies. An undisturbed colony of mites is a densely settled community, huddled under a protective webbing for concealment from its enemies. When sprayed, the colonies disperse as the mites, irritated though not killed by the chemicals, scatter out in search of places where they will not be disturbed. In so doing they find a far greater abundance of space and food than was available in the former colonies. Their enemies are now dead so there is no need for the mites to spend their energy in secreting protective webbing. Instead, they pour all their energies into producing more mites. It is not uncommon for their egg production to be increased threefold—all through the beneficent effect of insecticides.

In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a famous apple-growing region, hordes of a small insect called the red-banded leaf roller arose to plague the growers as soon as DDT began to replace arsenate of lead. Its depredations had never before been important; soon its toll rose to 50 per cent of the crop and it achieved the status of the most destructive pest of apples, not only in this region but throughout much of the East and Midwest, as the use of DDT increased.

The situation abounds in ironies. In the apple orchards of Nova Scotia in the late 1940s the worst infestations of the codling moth (cause of ‘wormy apples’) were in the orchards regularly sprayed. In unsprayed orchards the moths were not abundant enough to cause real trouble.

Diligence in spraying had a similarly unsatisfactory reward in the eastern Sudan, where cotton growers had a bitter experience with DDT. Some 60,000 acres of cotton were being grown under irrigation in the Gash Delta. Early trials of DDT having given apparently good results, spraying was intensified. It was then that trouble began. One of the most destructive enemies of cotton is the bollworm. But the more cotton was sprayed, the more bollworms appeared. The unsprayed cotton suffered less damage to fruits and later to mature bolls than the sprayed, and in twice-sprayed fields the yield of seed cotton dropped significantly. Although some of the leaf-feeding insects were eliminated, any benefit that might thus have been gained was more than offset by bollworm damage. In the end the growers were faced with the unpleasant truth that their cotton yield would have been greater had they saved themselves the trouble and expense of spraying.

In the Belgian Congo and Uganda the results of heavy applications of DDT against an insect pest of the coffee bush were almost ‘catastrophic’. The pest itself was found to be almost completely unaffected by the DDT, while its predator was extremely sensitive.

In America, farmers have repeatedly traded one insect enemy for a worse one as spraying upsets the population dynamics of the insect world. Two of the mass-spraying programs recently carried out have had precisely this effect. One was the fire ant eradication program in the South; the other was the spraying for the Japanese beetle in the Midwest. (See Chapters 10 and 7.)

When a wholesale application of heptachlor was made to the farmlands in Louisiana in 1957, the result was the unleashing of one of the worst enemies of the sugarcane crop—the sugarcane borer. Soon after the heptachlor treatment, damage by borers increased sharply. The chemical aimed at the fire ant had killed off the enemies of the borer. The crop was so severely damaged that farmers sought to bring suit against the state for negligence in not warning them that this might happen.

The same bitter lesson was learned by Illinois farmers. After the devastating bath of dieldrin recently administered to the farmlands in eastern Illinois for the control of the Japanese beetle, farmers discovered that corn borers had increased enormously in the treated area. In fact, corn grown in fields within this area contained almost twice as many of the destructive larvae of this insect as did the corn grown outside. The farmers may not yet be aware of the biological basis of what has happened, but they need no scientists to tell them they have made a poor bargain. In trying to get rid of one insect, they have brought on a scourge of a much more destructive one. According to Department of Agriculture estimates, total damage by the Japanese beetle in the United States adds up to about 10 million dollars a year, while damage by the corn borer runs to about 85 million.

It is worth noting that natural forces had been heavily relied on for control of the corn borer. Within two years after this insect was accidentally introduced from Europe in 1917, the United States Government had mounted one of its most intensive programs for locating and importing parasites of an insect pest. Since that time 24 species of parasites of the corn borer have been brought in from Europe and the Orient at considerable expense. Of these, 5 are recognized as being of distinct value in control. Needless to say, the results of all this work are now jeopardized as the e